NANJING, March 16 (Xinhua) -- A planned removal of many trees for the construction of a new subway line in an eastern Chinese city has been suspended amid strong complaints and opposition from the public.
The uprooting has been temporarily called off in response to people's concern and media reports, said Lu Bing, vice mayor of the government of Nanjing, capital of Jiangsu Province in east China.
Lu, who made the remarks Tuesday after visiting the site of the subway project along with government officials, promised that local authorities will try to improve the construction plan to reduce the number of trees to be removed.
People in Nanjing found that a dozen flourishing Chinars planted along both sides of a stretch of downtown Taiping Road disappeared to make way for the construction of the No. 3 subway line earlier this month.
A total of 600 trees of various species, including some 200 Chinars planted nearly 60 years ago, will be removed for the project that runs across the city, said Xu Shaolin, spokesman of the city's Urban Administration Bureau.
Netizens expressed opposition and indignation on Internet forums and the issue has received frequent media coverage.
"The trees are a cultural symbol of the city. Many of them are even older than me," said Wang Lin, a 45-year-old native of Nanjing.
"They are the pride of the city, we can't accept the fact that they will disappear," said Chen Shaohua, who lives adjacent to Taiping Road.
People have tied green strips around tree trunks to symbolize care for the trees and opposition to the removal campaign.
"A subway project usually consumes large areas and one station requires at least 200 square meters of land. In a densely inhabited and afforested city like Nanjing, replanting trees is inevitable," said Xu.
Compared to original plans, Nanjing's subway and urban administration authorities have managed to halt the removal of some 900 trees by changing the location of subway stations and limiting their sizes.
Xu promised that the trees will find new homes in squares and public places and 15-year-old trees will be planted around the subway stations once the project is completed.
Still, many people worry because trees uprooted five years ago for a different subway line project died due to improper maintenance.
Local media reported that 68 of those 190 trees died after they were sent to a nursery garden in 2006 to make way for the construction of the No. 2 subway line.