Friday, August 26, 2011

Tree Felling: The Saddest Sight in CIAG (City In A Garden)

This is one of the most vibrant part of Singapore City - the lively busy junction at Singapore Management University (SMU) where trees gracefully line both Bencoolen Street and Bras Basah Road. This is the 'happening' place - a happy place, I must add - where students, young people and tourists mingle, have a great time with food, museum visits, attend school and churches and going to cinema and open-air concerts with family and friends.

But what do we find here today - 26 August 2011 - eve of our Presidential Election 2011?

SHOCKING - 7 large tree stumps of felled Yellow Flame Trees lined in a death row along Bencoolen Street for the whole world to see!

That's not all. If you are as familiar as I am with trees in Singapore, you will know that 3 more big trees fringing Hotel Rendevous (white building; below photo) have also been cut and cleared of almost all evidence on the opposite side of the street.

It is simply the saddest sight in CIAG (City In A Garden) and it hurts.

Each stump a face of destruction, a real bad education, that immediately bring up images of deforestation, climate change, and - not by a long stretch - a worse possible counter- advertisement for CIAG's promotion of urban greenery and ecology. Bencoolen Street is so treeless, ugly and hot now.

But what awaits the fate of the remaining trees fringing Plaza By The Park along Bras Basah Road?

Will they be felled too?

The common man in the street needs some answers. It hurts, really hurt to the core! Why, o why did we cut these lovely benign trees that is so much a part of everything beautiful here? WHY? : (


9 comments:

Tang said...

When I stayed in Yishun some years ago, I witnessed the felling of more than 20 healthy trees. When I inquired into why these lovely trees were felled, the answer was that these trees attracted birds and birds are noisy and dirty. Residents complained and there they had to to felled.

In Thomson area, along Sin Ming Ave several years, a row of tallhe althy trees (~20 m) were felled. This time, NParks said that particular species of trees can easily be uprooted.

Like you, I am sad when I see perfectly fine trees felled!

Joseph Lai Tuck Kwong said...

Thanks, Tang, for sharing your experience. I think it is so important for people like you who care about trees to bring the immediacy of such tree felling to the attention of everyone through any form of media. Then we citizen can have a good sense of how often felling take place in Singapore and we can check and even provide proof if any wrongdoing is found. You never know. The Changi Tree is a good example. Thanks again, Tang.

Tang said...

Not only felling of trees. PUB and NParks often receive my calls and emails reporting any human activities that poses threats to our natural environment. However, the authorities' responses are often not very encouraing. I receive their standard replies such as this: "Thank you for your report of 21st-Feb-2011 to PUB-One. Your report has been sent to relevant officers for attention." I do not any further replies and do not see any action taken. Perhaps, they need many more people to report on the same case before they feel the need for any action to be taken.

I hope more nature lovers and photographers will take a more active part in protecting our natural environment - by reporting any wrongdoing to the relevant authorities.

By the way, I found the article that my brother wrote to Straits Times regarding the felling of trees along Sin Ming Ave.

Pat said...

Hi Joseph -- Do the stumps shown in your Photos 3-5 & Photo 6 belong to the same tree ? There is an unusual discolouration in the heartwood. Do all the 7 uncleared stumps at the site exhibit similar discolouration ? Do you happen to have close-up photos showing the sections of the other stumps ?

Although Peltophorum pterocarpum (Yellow Flame) is relatively disease-free (other than the occasional insect infestation), it can sometimes be affected by rot -- see egs. below. So might those felled trees along Bencoolen Street be in an early stage of rot ?

Photo A: Heartwood rot in a felled Yellow Flame (note the discolouraton & boundaries)

Photo B: Fungal fruiting bodies on a Yellow Flame in an advanced stage of rot

From post: "It hurts, really hurt to the core!"
I ain't no tree-hugger, but it is indeed saddening to see trees (esp. mature ones) being removed. For instance during the past 2-3 months, the entire row of healthy mature Syzygium grande along the median strip of Jurong Town Hall Rd was removed to make way for road widening & raising works.

Moreover, several Lagerstroemia trees along the sidewalk were pre-emptively removed as well, because the road-raising works & resultant introduction of heavy clay soil (to make up for the level-difference) led to the trees' root-collars being buried, which would have caused these trees to die a slow death. And guess what .. Jurong Town Hall Rd doesn't even really experience flooding prior to road-raising works.

With additional roadworks & this island becoming increasingly (over)populated, I suppose even more trees would be sacrificed in the name of development, prevention -- or whatever 1001 reasons that are apparently much more important than tree respect & conservation.

Pat said...

Tang: "When I inquired into why these lovely trees were felled, the answer was that these trees attracted birds and birds are noisy and dirty."

Nowadays, bird-friendly trees tend to be severely pruned by town councils. The mature Syzygium grande (Sea Apple) trees behind my block are periodically topped/pollarded, until they are merely standing stumps consisting of a few truncated & defoliated branches. In fact, such trees were highlighted in Stomp recently ('Why are poor trees left botak?' - 31 Aug 11). I'm not sure if it's better to subject trees to regular abuse, or might it be kinder to simply fell them.

As for the fellow native & deciduous Peltophorum pterocarpum (Yellow Flame) ... years ago, an acquaintance (then a student horticulturist) remarked that she finds this tree "disgusting", 'cos she can't stand trees that shed lots of small leaflets. (Well, this person went on to join parks management in NParks.)

S'pore will never realize its vision of being a "City in a Garden" in the genuine sense, if plants are merely regarded (& made used of) as a matter of convenience -- & then conveniently maltreated or disposed of, whenever they lose their perceived benefits, or get into anybody's way.


Tang: "PUB and NParks often receive my calls and emails reporting any human activities that poses threats to our natural environment. [...] I receive their standard replies such as this: "Thank you for your report of 21st-Feb-2011 to PUB-One. [...]" I do not any further replies and do not see any action taken."

It does appear that template non-replies (which don't address the issues raised), or even zero follow-up response & actions, are quite the "norm" here. A retired architect once told me that he spent 5 years trying to get NParks to deal with a plant-related issue, but was either ignored or passed around for 5 years. (The plant died in the meantime.)

Also, as anecdotally-heard from a staff-member of one of the stat boards you mentioned, feedback is treated as nuisance, & feedback-providers are regarded as "difficult. Period."

Oh well, such attitudes certainly don't seem very encouraging or intelligent. However, as a fellow member of the public who has also witnessed repeated injustice & wasteful wrongdoings, I have this to share: Thanks for trying though. Perhaps one day, the responsible parties might let go of their pretences, & decide to work hand in hand with the truth, as well as everyone who has tried to show genuine concern.

Joseph Lai Tuck Kwong said...

Hi Pat,

thank you for taking the time and effort to share. Fyi, the steady stumps have no health issues. I have a good sense of things on my second visit and it does appear that the felling is a precursor to road widening. But I am keeping a close watch to see if this is true. If it turns out to be an ill-conceived decision and act, I will report it again to testify for the trees.

And yes, we all hate standard replies. Like they don't respect our intelligence in the same breath.

As for removing trees because of birds, it so so stupid. In fact, it should not happen nowadays. As a major component of CIAG (City In A Garden), animal life is encouraged in the city. This is what they call urban ecology.

Thanks again for sharing, Pat.

Pat said...

Joseph: "it does appear that the felling is a precursor to road widening. But I am keeping a close watch to see if this is true."

Oh dear, I think you're right about why the trees along Bencoolen St & outside Hotel Rendezvous were removed.

Based on LTA's 24 Aug 11 press-release (items 5-7), part of Bencoolen St (between Prinsep Link & Bras Basah Rd) will be closed from 16 Oct 2011 til end 2013 for the construction of the Bencoolen MRT Station.

"Road improvement/ enhancement works" would also be carried out along Bencoolen St & the nearby roads -- including Bras Basah Rd, Stamford Rd, Queen St, Waterloo St, Selegie Rd & Middle Rd.

So there goes the trees again -- even though the removed ones are still visible at Google StreetView for the time being.

"If it turns out to be an ill-conceived decision and act, I will report it again to testify for the trees.

Thanks for the inital alert & do keep us further updated. The current episode reminds me of how the majestic trees at the former National Library, SMU & Bidadari Cemetery sites were all too easily removed.

"As for removing trees because of birds, it so so stupid. [...] As a major component of CIAG (City In A Garden), animal life is encouraged in the city. This is what they call urban ecology."

Unfortunately enough, it often seems that it is just Lip-service Ecology, aka Ecology-Only-When-Convenient-to-Humans. I wonder if the year-long CIAG Photo Competition might consider an "Utter Irony" category for photos of chopped down/ pollarded trees & poisoned birds.

Joseph Lai Tuck Kwong said...

Thanks, Pat, for alerting me to LTA's press-release and CIAG's photo competition. I will certainly update everyone with another blog post as things develop.

As to the library, I must say I am still sore and unforgiving how we destroyed the beloved old National Library - a collective memory - to ease travel time of vehicular beings across this part of town by a few single-digit minutes. We exchanged a much loved place for a big gaping hole of a tunnel; like we dug a grave for intelligence and wisdom. This hole bleeds whenever I walk pass here, which I do so often. I wrote a piece of my heart about this old library entitled "That Trees Do Cry". Do have a read here: http://www.eart-h.com/text/library.htm

Thanks again, Pat.

Pat said...

Thanks Joseph, for the article "That Trees Do Cry". The crying Maranthes corymbosa (Sea Beam) does remember the red-brick building. One actually wishes that the site was less efficiently cleared out, so that future archaeologists would have some meaningful remnants to dig up & ponder upon.

I myself have an affection for the older libraries, if only because it's awesome to walk into something that existed long before I did. Hopefully Queenstown Library lives on. The pioneer flats in Queenstown are already being torn down.

Not too far away, barely after the KTM land handover was finalized on 30 Jun 11, the former railway land behind IKEA Alexandra was quickly bulldozed in early July 2011 to make way for a carpark extension. This site used to be occupied by the KTM secondary line (expunged in the mid-1980s during construction of AYE), & led to the Customs located in the Anchor Brewery warehouse (now IKEA). When I happened to pass by the area, what I saw were ravaged grounds & the broken trunks of mature trees. I wasn't aware that Surbana was so eager to build a carpark there, so I didn't even get a chance to say goodbye.