Last update:

Nanjing residents fight against removing signature plane trees for metro lines, Jiangsu, China

Nostalgic residents in Nanjing are attempting to save the city's signature plane trees as online outcry slams local authorities for sacrificing the greenery to urban construction.


Nanjing is a city filled with iconic, jumbo plane trees (in Chinese, wutong). The plane trees were introduced in China by the French in the late 1800s or early 1900s to adorn their settlement in Shanghai. [1] Then in the late 1920s, more than 20,000 saplings were planted along Zhongshan Avenue, a road leading to the mausoleum of the anti-imperialist leader Sun Yat-sen, revered as the father of modern China. By the 1960s, it is reported that there were an estimated 200,000 such trees in Nanjing. [2] [3] The green Platanus of the plane trees have become a signature of the city. Wutongs are said as supertrees by horticulturists and city planners because they are immune to urban grime and smog.[4] And they became not just a symbol of Nanjing’s graceful beauty, but of its civic philosophy. China’s capital through multiple dynasties, Nanjing regards itself as a cultural haven. Its urban plan touts the city’s integration with mountains, rivers, and trees. According to Nanjing citizens, “They keep the whole city cool”, “The people of Nanjing grew up together with these trees,” “There is so much emotional attachment to them.” [1]

See more
Basic Data
Name of conflict:Nanjing residents fight against removing signature plane trees for metro lines, Jiangsu, China
State or province:Jiangsu province
Location of conflict:Cross at Zhongshan East Road and Taiping North Road (Daxinggong Station), Central Nanjing City
Accuracy of locationHIGH (Local level)
Source of Conflict
Type of conflict. 1st level:Biodiversity conservation conflicts
Type of conflict. 2nd level:Transport infrastructure networks (roads, railways, hydroways, canals and pipelines)
Urban development conflicts
Logging and non timber extraction
Specific commodities:Ecosystem Services
transportation services
Project Details and Actors
Project details

Line 3 is a north-south line on the Nanjing Metro that opened on April 1, 2015, running from Mozhou­donglu to Linchang. Currently, the line contains 29 stations spanning a total of 44.1 kilometres (27.4 mi). Between Nanjing South Railway Station and Nanjing Railway Station, it runs parallel to Line 1. It was planned in 2005 and the whole project was approved by the National Development and Reform Commission in October 2009. The preliminary construction and preparation works started from early 2010 and the construction work of the whole line was commenced on 1 March 2011. Line 3 started its operation on 1 April 2015, while the EIA of an expansion phase of Line 3 just got approved in 2019. [17]

See more
Level of Investment:unknown
Type of populationUrban
Affected Population:6 million
Start of the conflict:01/03/2011
End of the conflict:22/03/2011
Relevant government actors:- The Nanjing Municipal government
- KMT’s Central Standing Committee (CSC) in Taiwan
- Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Straits and the Straits Exchange Foundation
- the Taiwan Affairs Office (TAO) of Nanjing Municipal Government
- the Public Security Bureau of Nanjing City
Environmental justice organizations (and other supporters) and their websites, if available:- Zhu Fulin, a reporter for Nanjing Morning Post, and Cai Jianhua, a researcher from the Institute of Botany
- Friends of Nature
- Nanjing Green Stone
- Huang Jianxiang, a famous Nanjing-born sports commentator formerly employed by CCTV,
- film director Lu Chuan
- hosts of television shows like Le Jia and Meng Fei
- film stars such as Yao Chen and Zhao Wei
Conflict & Mobilization
IntensityHIGH (widespread, mass mobilization, violence, arrests, etc...)
Reaction stageIn REACTION to the implementation (during construction or operation)
Groups mobilizing:Local ejos
Local government/political parties
Recreational users
Local scientists/professionals
journalists, celebrities
Forms of mobilization:Artistic and creative actions (eg guerilla theatre, murals)
Development of a network/collective action
Involvement of national and international NGOs
Media based activism/alternative media
Official complaint letters and petitions
Public campaigns
Street protest/marches
Arguments for the rights of mother nature
Environmental ImpactsVisible: Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity), Loss of landscape/aesthetic degradation, Reduced ecological / hydrological connectivity
Potential: Air pollution, Noise pollution
Socio-economical ImpactsVisible: Loss of traditional knowledge/practices/cultures, Loss of landscape/sense of place
Project StatusStopped
Conflict outcome / response:Institutional changes
New legislation
Strengthening of participation
Project cancelled
Note that "project stopped/cancelled" refers here to the halt of felling the trees, not the metro line
Development of alternatives:(Note that "project stopped" refers here to the cancellation of tree felling, not the metro line)
Do you consider this an environmental justice success? Was environmental justice served?:Yes
Briefly explain:This is a significant success as the Nanjing Municipal Government stopped the removal of plane trees, and new legislation of “green assessment” was introduced into the construction projects of the city. During the process, the majority of residents in the city were mobilized, more and more people recognized the cultural and ecological value of the plane trees to the city.
Sources & Materials
Related laws and legislations - Juridical texts related to the conflict

[13] Nanjing Municipal Government, Jiangsu Province. Municipal Government’s Ideas on Further Enhancing the Protection of City’s Old and Precious Trees and Big Street Trees. 市政府关于进一步加强城市古树名木及行道大树保护的意见, March 17, 2011.
[click to view]

References to published books, academic articles, movies or published documentaries

[14]Steinhardt, H. C., & Wu, F. (2016). In the name of the public: environmental protest and the changing landscape of popular contention in China. The China Journal, 75(1), 61-82.
[click to view]

Links to general newspaper articles, blogs or other websites

[1] Nanjing residents fight to save their plane trees
[click to view]

[5] 三联生活周刊:南京为地铁移植梧桐树引争议 市民称是城市名片
[click to view]

[2] 百度百科:南京梧桐树事件(accessed on 2020-03-10)
[click to view]

[6] New York Times: A Grass-Roots Fight to Save a ‘Supertree’(accessed on 2020-03-11)
[click to view]

[click to view]

[12] 新闻晚报:南京尊重民意 暂停移走梧桐
[click to view]

[15] 新华网:南京出台护绿五大举措 重大工程须做“绿评”
[click to view]

[16] 扬子晚报:“绿都”常绿,离不开市民较真官方认真
[click to view]

[2] 百度百科:南京梧桐树事件
[click to view]

[3] 潇湘晨报:你离开了南京,从此没有人和我说话(accessed on 2020-03-11)
[click to view]

[9] Chinadialogue: The battle for Nanjing’s trees(accessed on 2020-03-11)
[click to view]

[9] Chinadialogue: The battle for Nanjing’s trees
[click to view]

[17]百度百科:南京地铁3号线(accessed on 2020-03-10)
[click to view]

[10] Protests planned in Nanjing as historic trees are cleared for subway
[click to view]

[1] Nanjing residents fight to save their plane trees (accessed on 2020-03-11)
[click to view]

[3] 潇湘晨报:你离开了南京,从此没有人和我说话
[click to view]

[4] [World report] The case of Nanjing in China – The importance of shady roadside trees
[click to view]

[5] 三联生活周刊:南京为地铁移植梧桐树引争议 市民称是城市名片(accessed on 2020-03-11)
[click to view]

[6] New York Times: A Grass-Roots Fight to Save a ‘Supertree’
[click to view]

[7] 南京40多棵行道树被剃光头为地铁线让道(图)(accessed on 2020-03-11)
[click to view]

[7] 南京40多棵行道树被剃光头为地铁线让道(图)
[click to view]

[click to view]

[11] 中外对话:南京梧桐激起民间保树运动
[click to view]

[12] 新闻晚报:南京尊重民意 暂停移走梧桐 (accessed on 2020-03-11)
[click to view]

[16] 扬子晚报:“绿都”常绿,离不开市民较真官方认真 (accessed on 2020-03-15)
[click to view]

[18]南京"梧桐树为地铁让路"风波调查 市政府正面回应
[click to view]

[10] Protests planned in Nanjing as historic trees are cleared for subway(accessed on 2020-03-11)
[click to view]

[15] 新华网:南京出台护绿五大举措 重大工程须做“绿评” (accessed on 2020-03-11)
[click to view]

[11] 中外对话:南京梧桐激起民间保树运动(accessed on 2020-03-11)
[click to view]

[18]南京"梧桐树为地铁让路"风波调查 市政府正面回应 (accessed on 2020-03-15)
[click to view]

Related media links to videos, campaigns, social network

南京为建地铁移植百年梧桐树引市民争议(accessed on 2020-03-10)
[click to view]

[click to view]

Meta information
Contributor:EnvJustice, ICTA-UAB
Last update23/03/2020
Legal notice / Aviso legal
We use cookies for statistical purposes and to improve our services. By clicking "Accept cookies" you consent to place cookies when visiting the website. For more information, and to find out how to change the configuration of cookies, please read our cookie policy. Utilizamos cookies para realizar el análisis de la navegación de los usuarios y mejorar nuestros servicios. Al pulsar "Accept cookies" consiente dichas cookies. Puede obtener más información, o bien conocer cómo cambiar la configuración, pulsando en más información.