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The disagreements of Prof Shen Ji and Ms Xiu

Somehow, gaining admittance to the administration building of The Botanic Gardens through persuasion and persistence, felt like a triumph. To actually be talking to Ms Xiu, casually dressed in embroidered jeans and trainers, felt like a small miracle. All phone advances had been rejected. I had some questions prepared. One of them was about the number of bird species resident in the Gardens. Without hesitation she said 150. I gasped and asked how many species there were in the surrounding streets. She had no idea.

So it was with some pride that, in a discussion yesterday with Prof Shen Ji, our ‘square mile’ ecologist, I told him my news. It’s hard to translate a scoff. But there was more than a trace of it. “A hundred, including migrating birds, maximum,” he said. “They’re kidding themselves.”

“And the rivers in the square mile, Prof Shen Ji? ” I said, “they look bad.”  ”They are bad. The rivers have lost their life, due to industrial pollution and human waste. The quality of the water is at 5th or 6th level.”  ”Isn’t there one clean river here in Shanghai? I’ve heard about it.”  ”The Suzhou River has been cleaned. It’s near the M50 artists’ community. It has fish. The water is of the quality of your River Thames in the 1940s.”

I must find the clean river.

The Admin block of The Botanic Gardens

The Admin block of The Botanic Gardens

The polluted river running through the middle of The Botanic Gardens

The polluted river running through the middle of The Botanic Gardens

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