One of the city's oldest thoroughfares, Nathan Road, will lose another of its Chinese banyan trees as early as today, because disease and rot have made it an accident waiting to happen.
The Tree Management Office, under the Development Bureau, said its removal was necessary to protect the public safety and contain the spread of a disease known as brown root rot, which affects that tree and some other nearby banyans.
The tree at Park Lane Shoppers Boulevard in Tsim Sha Tsui, classified as old and valuable, will be the first removed there since five people were injured by a falling banyan on the boulevard last month. It may be cut down as early as today, after which the planter will be sterilised and soil replaced for replanting.
The decision to cut it down was endorsed by a panel of tree specialists yesterday. An inspector's report confirmed that the tree had a 'deep and wide' cavity in the base of its trunk. Other structural defects were found near the top of its trunk.
The tree was further weakened because its above-ground roots were unable to penetrate the ground - blocked by boulders - and add their support, experts said.
A Development Bureau spokesman said: 'The overall structural condition of the tree is not satisfactory. While the tree currently does not pose imminent danger to the public, it is infected with brown root rot and its condition may abruptly deteriorate.'
Ken So Kwok-yin, from the Conservancy Association, agreed that the tree posed a high risk. But he said officials should explain why alternatives, such as erecting supporting frames, could not be tried.
He called for detailed individual assessments of all old trees in the shopping boulevard because they may all pose problems.
To improve the growing environment of the trees, the Leisure and Cultural Services Department will consider enlarging the boulevard's planters. The remaining 34 trees there classified 'old and valuable' will also be closely monitored.