Bill proposed to save trees from destruction

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 14 June, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 14 June, 2011, 12:00am

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The city needs a law to protect trees from damage and destruction, green advocates said yesterday.

Topping the trees and pruning lower branches are two common methods adopted by landscape contractors. But tree specialist Professor Jim Chi-yung, of the University of Hong Kong's geography department, said that such methods were 'a crime against nature' that affected the health of trees.

Jim said a tree ordinance he drafted eight years ago was rejected by the government. Officials told him then that there were some 40 ordinances related to the protection of trees in Hong Kong, but the professor said that the high number of laws made enforcement more difficult.

'The ordinances are very indirect. Trees at the countryside are protected by the Forest and Countryside Ordinance and trees in the urban areas are protected by various ordinances, like the Fire Services Ordinance,' he said.

Civic Party lawmaker Tanya Chan said the lack of a tree ordinance could allow contractors or gardening companies to shirk their responsibility to protect trees, as there was no penalty for those treating them improperly.

According to a survey conducted by Chan's office this month, 74 per cent of people interviewed, said a dedicated tree ordinance was 'necessary' or 'very necessary', while 55 per cent said that the government's tree maintenance work was 'insufficient' or 'very insufficient'.

Chan is proposing a bill on trees, under which the government would set up an independent department and a specialist group to take responsibility for the protection of old and valuable trees. She also wants a certification system for landscape contractors. Under the existing system, landscape contractors are not regulated and do not require any professional qualifications.

Jim said that a certification system, including courses and examinations, could enhance the professionalism of the industry, and help reduce the number of falling trees.

He added that the tree bill was needed in Hong Kong to raise awareness of tree maintenance issues among businesses and the public.

A motion on the bill will be put to the Legislative Council tomorrow.

1.58m

The number of trees in Hong Kong's urban areas, according to the government's newly established Tree Management Office