Sunday, June 21, 2009

Do trees kill people?

According to the latest statistics available, on average, there were 41 road traffic accidents each day in Hong Kong in 2006, involving 52 casualties and 61 vehicles. (

In 2009 one person was killed by the falling branch of a tree, a regrettable death that could have been avoided if said tree had been properly cared for.

And yet despite the fact that it was a freak accident, and far from common, the Hong Kong government has decided that mature trees are dangerous and should be surrounded by cages, their branches secured by unsightly cables attached to concrete poles.

These statistics beg one question. Given the deadly toll of traffic accidents in Hong Kong, why is the government so worried about the danger posed by trees? Instead of extending pedestrian areas and planning the city around pedestrians (the majority of residents don't drive!) more roads have been planned, and in the meantime our officials are busy chopping down trees or building unsightly cages around them.

The most bizarre decision was to build a high fence on a concrete support around a majestic banyan tree at the end of Battery Walk, near St. John's Cathedral. Not only they built an enclosure fit for a wild animal, but they covered part of the fence with plastic foliage (!) Inside the enclosure one can see a tall concrete pole on an over-scaled concrete box. The tree is now attached to this unsightly pole by several metal ropes. I have no idea how much taxpayers' money was wasted on this project, but certainly a tree expert would have pruned the dangerous branches, and left the tree alone!

Now instead of a beautiful tree that everybody can admire we have a concrete and metal monster, from the top of which a few branches jut out.

Above is a picture taken on Lamma, in Yung Shue Wan Main street. According to the Island District Office, they just wanted to "protect" the tree from people and dogs urinating (!?). As a result, this banyan tree is now enclosed in a stainless steel cage, adding more clutter to the already cluttered street. I guess it makes little difference to those who allegedly used the tree as a urinal. Now they simply have a stainless steel structure to urinate on. Progress, isn't it?

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