Green group joins fight to save banyan trees

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 21 March, 2006, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 21 March, 2006, 12:00am

Conservancy Association urges council to solve problem of smelly water at source

A green group has joined the fight to save a miniature forest of trees growing out of walls in a Shekkipmei housing estate park.

While red stem banyan trees are common in Hong Kong, they are rarely found growing out of walls, according to the Conservancy Association.

It is appealing to the local district council and the Drainage Services Department to reverse their decision to cut the trees down.

The banyan trees face destruction because the nullah in which they are growing in Lung Chu Street apparently smells during summer and residents of nearby estates have for years been trying to get the authorities to get rid of the stench.

But Peter Li Siu-man, campaign officer for the Conservancy Association, said the Drainage Services Department should concentrate on solving the problem at the source rather than covering up a waterway that is unique to Hong Kong.

'We've also offered the option, if they insist on concreting over the waterway, of covering it half way up the wall. That way, the trees could still survive and the water, if it does smell, could be covered up,' he said.

The association yesterday visited the site and tied green ribbons around nearby trees in the park. They could not access the trees growing from the walls because they are already barricaded behind hoardings in preparation for their removal.

The Drainage Services Department says the odour in the nullah is caused by the unauthorised discharge of wastewater into stormwater drains and that, despite repeated attempts, the problem could not be solved.

The department said it would chop down the 18 trees growing out of the nullah wall and replant 32 trees to compensate for the loss. The operation is scheduled for the end of next month.

Shamshuipo District Council met this month to discuss the issue and decided to go ahead with the work, which is expected to cost about $4.5 million.

It is part of a Hong Kong-wide initiative to 'deck' over 16 nullahs - at a cost of $1.2 billion - announced by former chief executive Tung Chee-hwa in his 2005 policy address.

The work in Lung Chu Street was due to begin in January but was delayed while Shamshuipo District Council and the Drainage Services Department studied opposition to the plan by tree expert Jim Chi-yung, from the University of Hong Kong's geography department.

Professor Jim said yesterday he was 'immensely disappointed' that the plan to cover the nullah and chop down the trees would go ahead.

He said he feared the appearance of the hoarding around the nullah meant chainsaws would soon follow. He said the waterway provided a unique urban garden scene for residents and the trees and nullah helped lower temperatures in the area.