Starting early this year, the balcony of my home is frequented by red-whiskered bulbuls, whose crisp chirping breaks the morning quietness. I was also so delighted by a pair of white-eyes who came to feast on the flowers of potted Mina lobata Cerv., commonly known as "goldfish flowers," for several days running that I purchased two more pots of the plant, hoping the juicy flowers will incentivize these frisky little birds to come more often.
The sighting of more birds at my balcony, I reasoned, was probably the result of more trees planted in the community park nearby, which is one of the 1,238 parks the city has built over the decades. Although being one of the most densely populated cities in China, Shenzhen leads the country in terms of both the number of parks and the total area they occupy.
Like many other Shenzheners, I enjoy visiting the numerous parks that I have easy access to.
The parks attract me for different reasons. The litchi groves and the kite-flying lawn in Lianhua Hill Park offers a much-needed green space in the city center, while the central axis connects with the park seamlessly; the meandering elevated greenway in Xiangmi Park leads you on a tour through the treetops; in Shenzhen Bay Park, you can admire the migratory birds that fly from thousands of kilometers away for a winter stay in the city; in Talent Park, a walk or a run around the lake is spiritually and physically satisfying, while the reflections of skyscrapers shimmering on the water bring a new dimension to the charm of the park.
Parks not only offer precious open, green spaces to city dwellers living in crowded high-rises. Home to much of the city's 513 species of wild animals and 2,080 species of wild vascular plants, the parks also underpin the city's vibrant ecosystem and rich biodiversity. I on several occasions came across fireflies in Xiangmi Park and Lianhua Hill Park, saw a squirrel racing down a tree in Huanggang Park, and was startled by a snake crawling on the Meilin Greenway. Isaac Cohen, a biology teacher from South America, photographed most, if not all, the fascinating wild animals in parks as featured in his "Discover Shenzhen" column in Shenzhen Daily. In his column, Cohen frequently marvels at the rich pool of species he discovers in the wild.
Parks play an important role in improving people's happiness and quality of life. They nourish and enrich our lives. The abundant lush greenery merges the concrete jungle with nature.
Parks have a significant impact on the development of children. To some extent, the parks in the neighborhoods where people grew up have an impact on who they are today. More and more families are taking their children to parks on weekends for camping and picnics. These experiences could shape their future in a positive way.
Shenzhen has also adopted a creative approach in increasing the interaction between residents and nature, launching dozens of projects for residents to collectively build gardens in their neighborhoods.
Shenzhen's efforts to build parks and greenery started early. Back in 2000, the city won the Nations in Bloom award, an international competition focusing on best practice in the management of the local environment. Even with a long-standing reputation as a "garden city," Shenzhen doesn't rest on its laurels. Instead, it continues to expand its green infrastructure to make life more pleasant for its people. The city government work report delivered at the annual session of the city legislature earlier this month calls for 20 parks to be built or renovated and 270 km of greenways to be added this year.
The city government is now considering a plan to transform Shenzhen into "a city in parks." Under the new plan, the city will steadily increase the number of parks and further improve their quality. A news report early this year suggested that the city aims to have 1,500 parks by 2025 and 2,000 parks by 2035.
Hopefully more and more Shenzheners will be able to wake up to the beautiful chirping of birds every morning as more parks and greenery are built.
Although the seemingly ubiquitous high-pitched mating calls from Asian koels in spring time is annoying, it is just a nuisance that we should all accept as a small sacrifice for being blended with nature.
(The author is a deputy editor-in-chief of Shenzhen Daily.)