GUANGZHOU: An investigation has been launched to determine whether eucalyptus trees have done damage to the environment.
Special task forces that consist of forestry officials and experts have been sent to the cities of Yunfu, Zhaoqing and Meizhou, where many eucalyptus trees are being planted for field investigations, according to sources from the provincial forestry department.
The findings will be published before the end of April.
The investigation campaign was initiated after local deputies to the Guangdong provincial people's congress and members of Guangdong provincial people's political consultative conference put forward their observations about the damage caused by eucalyptus trees to the province's ecological environment.
Li Sidong, a member of Guangdong provincial people's political consultative conference, urged the forestry department to further strengthen the management of the planting of eucalyptus trees.
Li, a professor from Guangdong Ocean University, said he was worried that large-scale eucalyptus planting would reduce soil quality, suck up moisture and create "a green desert."
The increasing number of eucalyptus trees has partly contributed to the worsening drought in the southern Chinese province of Guangdong in recent years, according to Guangzhou-based New Express News.
The city government of Yunfu enforced a ban on planting eucalyptuses a month ago. And Zengcheng, a suburban city of Guangzhou, has decided to follow this move.
But many forestry experts have refused to believe that eucalyptuses have absorbed underground water and contributed to the drought.
Xie Zhengsheng, a professor from South China University of Agriculture, said there is not enough evidence to prove that eucalyptus trees suck up large amounts of water.
While another forestry expert Xu Daping said it was not correct to believe that eucalyptuses had damaged local ecological environments and that the trees were harmful to the forest animals. "In Australia, the eucalyptuses are home to many small kangaroos and possums," Xu said.
An official from the provincial forestry Department has denied rumours that the province will ban the planting of eucalyptuses.
Guangdong started importing eucalyptuses from Australia, Indonesia and the Philippines in the 1980s. Currently, the province has an area of more than 677,300 hectares of eucalyptus trees.
(China Daily 04/10/2006 page3)