Flowers removed from cotton trees by mistake

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 13 April, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 13 April, 2011, 12:00am


Government contract workers mistakenly removed flowers as well as fruit from cotton trees in Sheung Shui after being called in to stop cotton fibres being blown into nearby residential areas.

The Leisure and Cultural Services Department decided in January to appoint contractors to remove the fruit from 90 cotton trees because cotton fibres left clothes dirty and affected people suffering from respiratory diseases, according to complaints from neighbours.

On Monday, workers began cutting off the fruit, but also removed most of the flowers and some branches. The work was halted yesterday afternoon after complaints from the public. The department said 22 of the 94 trees had been handled in the two days of work.

The flowers usually blossom between February and March, while problems with cotton fibre are at their worst in April and May.

The mistake quickly drew criticism from the community.

'It is a mistake. Workers should only take away the fruit,' said Liu Chiu-wa, a member of the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong, who works in the area. 'It is a pity that they also got rid of the flowers. They are beautiful and many people love them.'

But Liu said there had been complaints about the cotton fibres.

'These fibres are everywhere in the summer. Residents dislike them as they make the clothes hanging outside their apartments a mess. These fibres will also float into their homes,' he said.

North District Council also received complaints from the residents, who believed that the floating cotton fibres caused health and environmental problems.

The council referred the cases to the Leisure and Cultural Services Department for action.

Chairman of pressure group People's Health Action, Dr Lo Wing-lok, called for a more informed approach to allergies. 'Yes, these fibres may cause allergy. But then so do dust, smoking and car emissions. Should we get rid of everything?'

A spokesman for the Leisure and Cultural Services Department said the department had been monitoring the performance of contractors and providing advice.

He said the department had warned the contractor after it removed the flowers. It would consult the district council before deciding whether work would resume.