Four large Banyan trees growing out of a stone wall in Mid-levels have been cut down after cracks appeared in the wall supporting them. They were removed just over a week after a tree on the same road came crashing down during a heavy rainstorm.
The Highways Department (HyD) confirmed on Friday evening that the four trees were taken down amid public safety concerns.
There were originally six trees on Bonham Road, however one of them was uprooted from a wall opposite the Centre Street escalators on July 22. Two people, a man and a woman, were injured in the incident and taken to Queen Mary Hospital.
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Posted by 現場 － 蘋果突發 on 2015年7月21日
After consulting the Tree Management Office (TMO) on the condition of the five remaining trees on Bonham Road, the HyD decided to cut down one tree that was in poor condition and prune the remaining four.
A statement issued by the department on Friday evening said: “There were signs of unstable and worsening support of the remaining four stonewall trees, and the potential risk of collapse could not be entirely alleviated by extensive pruning.”
Though iconic to the area, the department confirmed that the four trees were not listed on the Register of Old and Valuable Trees.
Some experts however have questioned the move by the HyD. Professor Jim Chi-yong, a Geography professor who specialises in trees, told Ming Pao that the decision to fell all four trees was “extremely suspicious” and that it would have been better to just trim the branches weighing down the trees instead.
Some residents questioned the decision to remove the trees so hastily and without public consultation.
The group Dear Tree, a Facebook group dedicated to trees in Hong Kong, said in a post: “They have been here for decades, and just got removed overnight, could they not have do something to the wall instead? …And is this the authority’s vision of good urban environment? Is this the best and most sustainable decision or is this just the easiest solution?!”
In 1996, Hong Kong was estimated to have 1,275 trees growing out of 505 retaining walls. With many streets built along flattened slopes, Central and Western District possess the highest concentration of distinctive “stonewall trees” with over one hundred remaining.
HKFP is awaiting comment from the TMO and the HyD.