Sick banyans face the chop as danger grows

Local | Amy Nip May 17, 2018
The Lands Department has suggested uprooting two banyan trees, both more than 70 years old, on Bonham Road as it believes they threaten public safety. The fate of the two trees will be discussed at a Central and Western District Council committee meeting today. The issue of the two trees was first raised in 2015. At that time, the government's sudden decision to cut down four banyan trees on a stone wall along Bonham Road in Sai Ying Pun triggered a public outcry. After the four trees were brought down, the Lands Department checked another two trees growing on the same road that climbed over a wall adjacent to Tang Chi Ngong Building at the University of Hong Kong. It said the two trees are unhealthy and should be removed. However, district councilors asked the department to consider installing steel ropes to stabilize the trees. More than two years later, the department repeated the plea of removing the trees and invited councilors to a site visit. Edmond Lam Yui-fong, senior forestry officer of the department's tree unit, said steel ropes were used on the trees to pull them toward Tang Chi Ngong Building. But he insisted that it was only a temporary solution and could not solve the long-term problem. Florence Ko Wan-yee, head of the Development Bureau's tree management office, said the banyan trees are progressively tilting toward the road. The roots are damaging the stone wall. Since Tang Chi Ngong Building, which was established in 1929, is a declared monument, it is believed that the stone wall adjacent to it was erected during the same period. Preserving the wall is one of the reasons why the trees should be removed, the department said. The latest assessment by tree experts in December 2017 concluded that there had been no improvement in the health of the two trees. Rot was discovered in holes, while a fungal infection was identified in the bases. An index illustrating the safety threat posed by the trees increased from 10 to 11 out of 12. There is an urgent and obvious risk that the trees will collapse, the department said.

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January 2019