OFFICIALS tried to put a spring in the step of locals in southern China - by secretly painting their grass green.

Baffled locals thought nature had sprung a surprise on them when lush spring grass sprouted up overnight in Chengdu, Sichuan province. But the bright green lawns were created by Town Hall gardeners in a bid to make residents "more cheerful and productive". Local He Wan noticed the shady trick when he saw that some of the grass was still in its old, yellowing winter colour. "Then when I walked on the green grass the paint came off on my trainers. What kind of fool tried to beat nature like this?" he said.

Red-faced local officials admit they did paint the lawns, but claim special nutrients in the tint will help the grass grow. "People feel more positive, cheerful and productive when Spring is here and everything is green and new," explained a spokesman.               –WO