Profile: Man plants trees on cliffs amid north China's greening efforts

Source: Xinhua| 2020-05-06 10:54:07|Editor: huaxia

TAIYUAN, May 6 (Xinhua) -- On a slope on the Yuquan Mountain, Zhang Junping digs holes in the rocks with an electric hammer. Workers carry soil, fertilizer and tree seedlings to the site, and together they plant the trees up the slope.

Zhang is a former military man. In the past decade, he has been planting trees on the slopes of a deserted mining mountain in northern China's Shanxi Province, helping turn the once deserted area into a favorite city park among local residents.

His team have planted more than 4.8 million trees on the mountain, increasing the plantation rate from less than 30 percent to about 70 percent.

"It was a tough job," Zhang said. "But you learn from your experience to make it."

The Yuquan Mountain once exuded a sense of desolation. After about 100 years of mining and years of garbage dumping, more than 100 deserted mines and seven major garbage dumps left there made the air dusty in windy weather and polluted water on rainy days.

Located in the city of Taiyuan, the provincial capital, the mountain was a major source of pollution.

"In the past, after washing our clothes, we did not dare to dry them in the courtyard," said a local villager surnamed Li. "Because before the clothes were dry, they were dusty."

In 2009, the city government decided to restore the ecosystem of the mountain by attracting social capital. Zhang was in the first batch of volunteers to help with the greening efforts.

About one-third of the damaged areas in the mountain was almost vertical.

"Planting trees on the mountain was equal to planting trees on cliffs," Zhang said.

For starters, Zhang arranged excavators to cut the cliffs into slopes of less than 60 degrees and placed wood structures on them so that workers could stand and keep balance.

Then they used electric hammers to dig holes in the rocks.

"It was difficult. It would take at least three hours to dig just one hole," Zhang said.

A worker could even break five steel hammer cores in a day, he added. With the holes completed, workers carried soil, fertilizer and tree seedlings up the mountain to grow trees.

However, the efforts in the first few years proved to be a failure. The trees they grew died because of water shortage.

"I remember the bamboo trees we grew died in large batches, and our hearts broke," said worker Li Yanfeng. "We asked Zhang to quit, but he would not give up."

Zhang said that even if only one out of 100 bamboo trees survived, he wanted to find out how it made it and learn from the experience.

Zhang later decided to divert water to the mountain and build an irrigation system there.

"At the beginning, we buried regular steel pipelines underground, but when it came to springtime, some pipes were still frozen," he said. "So we switched them with plastic pipes."

But the plastic ones could not take much pressure, and they often broke.

"So we thought about seamless steel pipes, but they were way too small to bring big water flow," he said.

Then Zhang increased the water flow by altering the designing of the pipelines.

This time around, he succeeded.

With the project in place, more than 95 percent of the trees they grew survived and thrived.

Many of Zhang's colleagues were impressed by Zhang's strong sense of responsibility: He never complained even when he worked for 16 hours a day, was injured in the mountains and frequently suffered from loss of sleep.

"Zhang's team is one that faces up to challenges and has strong execution abilities," said Chen Keli, an official who was formerly in charge of the area administering the Yuquan Mountain. "Without their efforts, the Yuquan Mountain would not be what it is today."

These days, the Yuquan Mountain has become a beautiful forest park thanks to the greening efforts.

The once barren mountain is covered by plum trees, sakura and orchids. Tourism is in full bloom with flowers and grass attracting more than 3 million tourists annually.

"I enjoyed what I did," Zhang said. "It gave me a sense of achievement." Enditem