Monday, 10 August 2015

Hong Kong's Tree Conundrum

Stumps of the banyan trees are left behind on Bonham Road
On Saturday morning people living around Bonham Road in Sai Ying Pun woke up shocked to find four Chinese banyan trees growing along a stone wall were suddenly chopped down in the middle of the night.

A tree expert on a government advisory panel said the decision was "scientific", as another Chinese banyan tree collapsed on July 22 during a serious rainstorm, injuring two people.

Some residents left balloons and notes on the roots
There was no prior announcement the trees would be cut down, and so "mourners" came to the site hanging colourful balloons or leaving notes that read: "The trees are crying".

For many, the trees were a nostalgic memory of their childhood and questioned why they had to be chopped down -- could there not have been severe pruning done instead?

However it seems the Hong Kong government did not want to take any chances, and erred on the side of safety and face the wrath of residents than risk another possible accident.

It turns out the authorities may have been right.

Last night, after days of blistering heat, there was an amber rainstorm warning with lots of thunder, lightning and heavy rain.

The banyan trees before they were cut down Friday night
In the morning, four trees had collapsed, one in Repulse Bay and another in Stanley, and then one near St John's Church in Central, and the last tree in Sheung Shui.

It seems the city's aborists don't have enough experience in assessing Hong Kong's tree situation, because in many cases a year or two after they have been assessed, some trees collapse and it turns out they were completed rotted and should have been removed much earlier.

And now with residents gradually becoming more environmentally conscious, they want to save the existing trees without understanding some cannot be saved and need to be chopped down for public safety reasons.

The government really needs to do a thorough evaluation of trees in the city and monitor them more closely. They provide a natural shade and add character to our concrete jungle.

Not only do we need to protect what we have, but also plant more trees to create a greener future for our city.

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