MTR tree felling angers greens

PUBLISHED : Monday, 05 September, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 05 September, 2011, 12:00am


The MTR Corporation has removed dozens of trees in Admiralty as part of construction work for the South Island Line in an operation denounced by green activists as 'unprofessional'.

The work was carried out in Supreme Court Drive, near the British consulate and the High Court, where a ventilation shaft for the rail tunnel is being built.

At least 36 trees were removed outside the consulate from July to August, around two-thirds of which were Chinese fan palms, an indigenous species, and the rest paperbark trees, an Australian exotic.

Peter Li Siu-man, campaign manager of the Conservancy Association, said six of 14 paperbark trees were saved and transplanted, while 10 of 22 palm trees were felled.

'It is difficult to understand the logic behind their choices, and clearly the judgment is problematic,' Li said.

His association said a tree survey conducted as part of an environmental impact assessment found the paperbarks had a low to medium chance of surviving transplantation and that the palms had a good chance.

Li also said it was a common practice, endorsed by certified arborists, or tree specialists, that roots would be severed between one and three months before the transplantation, to allow new roots to sprout. But, based on their observation, the MTR's contractor cut the roots only on the day the trees were removed.

'The idea of the practice is to ensure that new roots will sprout out before the tree is settled in another place,' said Ken So Kwok-yin, chief executive of the group who is also a certified arborist.

An MTR Corporation spokesman said 'tangled roots' among the palm trees were the reason behind the decision to remove most of the trees on the site.

'Our tree experts found that they were planted in an overcrowded environment ... Damage will be caused by root pruning to the tangled roots of the trees,' he said.

However, So said this explanation was unacceptable because the roots would have to be cut anyway for transplantation and the species' roots tended to be confined in a radius of about 30 centimetres.

The MTR spokesman also said the three-month root pruning period was not applicable to the palm trees, as advised by its tree experts.

About 4,000 trees need to be felled and 437 require transplantation for construction of the 7km line linking Admiralty to South Horizons.