Pohon Pulai di Hanoi

Quang Nam trees suffocate residents

DA NANG — The hoa sua (Pulai) tree, with its pungent white flowers is a special symbol of Ha Noi, but it has literally caused headaches for Da Nang City and other townships in the central Quang Nam Province during the past few years.

The white flowers of the Pulai tree bloom in autumn in Ha Noi, especially on Nguyen Du Street, emitting a thick odour, which is at its strongest around midnight. Much like bleu cheese, durians, or nuoc mam (fish sauce), people either love the smell or they hate it.

However, while Ha Noi only has a few of these trees spread lightly across the city, Da Nang’s streets are packed thick with them. On the city’s main thoroughfares including Nguyen Van Linh, Truong Chinh and Dong Da streets, the trees have been planted every five metres.

Urban area development investors decided to plant the Pulai trees on the new streets because of their beauty, according to Le Khanh, head of the Urban Management Office.

However, it appears they went a little overboard.

The city now has an estimated 1,000 Pulai trees planted throughout the city, according to an incomplete statistic made by the Urban Management Office of the city Department of Transport and Public Works, meaning that when autumn comes the scent is so thick it can bring tears to the residents’ eyes.

Many of the homes next to the rows of Pulai trees have to close their doors and windows during the day to avoid the smell.

“Our doors and windows have had to be closed during the day over the past three years whenever autumn comes,” said Tran Ban, a resident on Dong Da Street.

One resident on Tran Cao Van Street, Nguyen Thi Mai, even went so far as to cover the two Pulai trees in front of her house with a plastic sheet to contain the stench.

“No one in my family can bear the strong smell if we do not do this,” Mai said.

Others are taking more drastic measures. During the night, many Da Nang denizens stealthily sneak into the streets to lop off the offending branches.

However, Da Nang is not the only area in central Viet Nam plagued by the Pulai trees. Tam Ky Township’s Huynh Thuc Khang Street is so thick with the trees that local residents have to wear gauze masks when they go outside because the air is almost unbreatheable.

The smell on the 1.5km street, home to nearly 300 Pulai trees, is so intense that many local shops have even lost business.

Tran Van Thu, owner of an herbal medicine shop, said his business declines dramatically in autumn when the trees are blooming.

The local residents blame the trees for sinusitis, headache and shortness of breath, and have begun signing petitions to the local authorities to deal with the problem.

“The Pulai trees should be chopped down because the aroma affects residents’ lives,” said Dang Ba Du, head of Tam Ky Urban Management Office.

His office is co-ordinating with the township’s Green Tree Company to work out a plan to cut the trees and replace them with Royal Poinciana trees, also known as flamboyant trees, whose bright red flowers emit a much softer scent.

However, if the plan takes too long to put in place, some residents are already scheming to poison the trees so they can breathe again. — VNS

Sources: http://vietnamnews.vnagency.com.vn/2004-10/27/Stories/13.htm

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