A tree-planting programme on the Stanley waterfront is on hold after residents voiced fears the trees might attract birds and insects that could spread diseases including bird flu. The Town Planning Board deferred a decision on a request for the number of trees to be reduced and said the government departments involved should consult the residents about their plans. At issue are 39 trees that were to have been planted along Stanley New Street as part of a HK$14 million revamp involving the planting of 107 trees, which the board approved in 2005. Officials want to amend the plan so no trees are planted in that street but an additional 23 are planted elsewhere. About 100 people, backed by the Southern District Council, signed a petition demanding that the eastern side of the waterfront be left without trees. Residents complained that trees would attract birds, mosquitoes and other insects and increase the risk of bird flu, dengue fever and Japanese encephalitis. Planning board members expressed concern that approving the amended proposal would set a precedent for opponents of other greening proposals. 'Whoever is against a greening project will cite bird flu to argue against tree planting,' said Greg Wong Chuk-yan, vice-chairman of the board's metro planning committee. Infectious diseases specialist Lo Wing-lok said local wild birds would not cause bird flu. 'Poultry, especially chicken, have a very high risk of spreading bird flu. But so far, there has been no case around the world of a human catching bird flu from [other] birds,' Dr Lo said. 'Also, there are not many birds in metropolitan Hong Kong - birds are afraid of humans. The government should educate the public not to overreact.' Dr Lo said if residents were worried the trees would attract a bird population, there were ways to disperse birds before they became too settled.