In a question of whether to preserve a stone wall or four century-old banyan trees, Head of the HK Tree Management Office Lawrence Chau Kam-chiu opted to save the wall. The trees were planted near the structure at the time of its erection and have since become a unique feature on Bonham Road, leading local residents to voice anger and sadness over the recent decision to remove them.
The decision to fell the trees came in hindsight of an incident on July 22, when the collapse of a wall caused by a banyan tree injured two people.
The Highways Department said 16 new cracks were noticed in the stone wall, the widest of which was 20 millimeters.
Alternatives to the felling were considered, including the use of steel supporting poles, but in this case the 80 degree incline of the slope was considered too great a risk. Tree experts are disappointed that the quick decision was made without their consultation, pointing out that there was no critical evidence that the trees themselves were causing any damage.
Many locals were also none-too-pleased with the felling, China Daily reports:
A 55-year-old accountant, surnamed Tang, who has lived in the area for 35 years, said she would rather have seen the more dangerous branches pruned instead of the entire trees felled. She added that they could have at least left a few stems.
A 36-year-old financial sector worker, surnamed Lee, said opinions from tree specialists should have been sought. Lee noted that other cities such as Singapore seemed to be better at protecting old trees.
A 43-year-old businesswoman, surnamed Fung, said more time and money should be spent preserving trees in Central and Western District, which is home to many of the city’s remaining old urban trees.
Residents struck back at the authorities online with angry comments and this nostalgic video:
By Dan Cunningham