Green shoots bring hope to Hong Kong life
Government plans to introduce a substantially larger number of tree, shrub and plant species as part of a revamped environment policy are long overdue
Trees, shrubs and plants are widely acknowledged as being important components of a liveable urban environment.
They offer a host of benefits for Hong Kong life, but the greyness of many streets gives the impression that authorities consider them a nuisance.
Government plans to introduce a substantially larger number of species as part of a revamped greening policy are therefore long overdue.
Adopting a new approach has been made possible through the need to replace about 100,000 Taiwan acacia trees, planted in the 1950s and 1960s and now nearing the end of their average natural lifespan of 60 years.
Many were put on slopes to prevent soil erosion, but their age, the harshness of the surrounding urban environment and, sometimes, a lack of care, have led to them dying. They have also toppled a few times with tragic consequences.
Replacing them with sturdier or more appropriate species makes sense and provides an opportunity to put in place a better greening system.
There are presently about 20 tree and shrub varieties in urban areas and it is proposed that this be expanded to 120.
The strategy, being reviewed by the Development Bureau, is to match particular plants with specific urban conditions. Traffic flow and pedestrian walkways will be among factors taken into account when choosing trees and shrubs for specific locations.
An ability to cool roads by providing shade, improve air quality through absorbing pollutants, lessen the impact of rain, muffle traffic noise and beautify otherwise dull streetscapes will be among the considerations.
The idea will be applied throughout the city, a marked departure from the present system, which is determined project by project.
Narrow streets and footpaths have always made greening our city a challenge. So, too, have the violent storms that strike from time to time; they make innovations such as rooftop gardens and vegetation-covered canopies difficult to grow and maintain, and even dangerous.
A lack of coordination between government departments has not ensured the best possible tree management. The introduction of more appropriate plant species and a citywide plan will beautify our streets and make Hong Kong more liveable.