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Beijing issues catkins forecast to aid public

By DU JUAN | China Daily | Updated: 2021-04-06 09:06
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A woman rides a bike amid falling catkins in Beijing, in April 2019. [Photo/Sipa]

Beijing's municipal government issued this year's first forecast for catkins on Monday in order to help related departments deal with the fuzzy mess and remind the public to take necessary prevention measures.

As the week begins, the capital's downtown and southern parts will see willow and poplar catkins-fuzzy reproductive tufts from pollinating flowers-wafting through the air, and the city's northeastern areas will start to face the problem a bit later, between Wednesday and Saturday, according to the forecast jointly published by the Beijing Gardening and Greening Bureau and the city's weather bureau.

Zhang Bo, senior engineer at the greening bureau, said Beijing usually sees masses of catkins blowing throughout the city, mostly within the Fifth Ring Road, between early April and late May.

"The peak time lasts for around a week," he said. "Between 10 am and 4 pm, the situation is worse than other periods during the day."

An abundance of catkins floating in the air can create problems for traffic, street cleaners and people with allergies. The tufts are also a potential fire hazard.

To deal with the problem, Beijing's government has been modifying plants and increasing the variety of trees used in urban greening projects.

"We have adopted methods for limiting catkin production, including using chemical injections and trimming and thinning plants," Zhang said.

The city has established an emergency system to deal with the problem.

This year, the greening bureau has sent teams to 100 catkin monitoring sites and other professionals to patrol the city.

Zhao Yu, a 34-year-old Beijing resident, is allergic to pollen, especially the catkins. He said April and May are the worst months of the year for him.

"The catkins make my eyes itchy and watery," he said. "I will also have a runny nose."

If he can, Zhao leaves Beijing for a business trip or vacation and heads to cities in South China just to escape the catkins "disaster".

"It won't kill me. I know it will pass after May, but it can be really troublesome," he said.

The bureau encourages people to wear masks, sunglasses or shawls to protect themselves during the catkins period.

People who exercise outdoors should do so in the mornings or evenings, or after rain, when there will be fewer catkins, the bureau said.

Beijing has a long history of planting willow and poplar trees. In the 1960s, the government had limited funding for greening projects in the capital, so the low-cost, fast-growing trees were widely planted.

Zhang Jianguo, an expert at the forestry research institute of the Chinese Academy of Forestry, said such trees have made a significant contribution to the city's environment over the decades.

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