Monday, July 9, 2007

ISA HK/China --- DLO destroying trees in land sale?

*** Station Mail is for the information of Station Members only, but Station Mail has given up copyright & can be freely circulated. For administrative reasons, comments from outsiders are usually not entertained & may be circulated within our system locally & overseas.***

Dear Station Members,

Attached is a set of news complaint frequently appearing in Western countries decades ago & now appearing in HK for the past few years.

The District Lands Office (DLO) of the HK Govt was accused by environmental activists of destroying the Greenery of HK by selling land with forested trees.The activists worried that the trees would be cut down during the development progress so that 'Heat Island Effect' will be created. The activists also accused the Govt ignoring recommendations from the Planning Dept in their advice for development proposal. Various experts have suggested a more balanced ecological evaluation or establishing tree conservation laws to protect the forested trees. DLO's brief reply so stated was that the Lease Conditions of land sale have required the developers to submit application for 'tree felling' & 'compensatory planting proposal', & there were no 'valuable' trees requiring special attention at the various sites.

This Station has been asked to comment on events as such many times in the past by various parties, although the correspondences were never disclosed publicly as a Station policy.

HK is a small place & the Govt would view land sale as a major source of income to support quality Civil Services to the public. It is simple arithmetic that lower income would mean lower quality services anywhere in the free world. If by selling off a small piece of land which can generate enormous income with a small impact to our society, it would be considered by any common individual to be a good deal. Comparing to the daily removal of giant trees in many tropical forests in the world, the potential destruction of trees in any development in HK would be insignificant when it comes to any disturbance in ecology in a worldwide scale. However, if the forest to be disturbed would contain living species of special values or would contribute irrevocably for ecological havocs, the decision may be entirely reversed. It should be a balanced decision, not unilaterally biased, for the benefits of all.

To ascertain whether the forest would be of special significance in one way or another to our community, a team of foresters, arborists, environmentalists & other experts should be gathered to study the values & jointly produce a report on a scientific basis other than sentimental to answer the issue. For example, if the forest contains hazardous mature trees which would fall to hit people & properties in the coming storms, would anyone bear the responsibilities to retain them ?? If the trees there are so senile that the life expectancies are only for a few more years, would it not be better to remove them & plant new trees before development, rather than spending extra money & pain to remove them after everything is built ? What about letting the arborists review the so-called 'tree felling' & 'compensatory planting proposal' because arborists are tree care professionals ? There are lots of actions that can be considered, like what are practised in Western countries right now, for us to refer to in HK indeed.

Arborists are realistic Practitioners living in a realistic world. We are fact-finding & truth-telling with Integrity, Professionalism & Participation into our community. We base our judgement primarily on scientific ground from valid research more than anything else. Sentiment would not be the only consideration in our decision. Arborists can not be envisaged as a bunch of crying children stamping feet for toys.

Currently in our Govt system, DLO is the Dept to coordinate all tree affairs & represent the Govt for final decisions on tree matters involving Govt land . Only if DLO would employ or require Arborist Services to help them make decisions in any matter relating to tree affairs, they may save a lot time & effort to focus back on what they would do best in their job. It is not difficult for DLO to demand an Arborist Report to accompany any Tree felling, Transplantation & Pruning Application & let the arborists be the professionals to make recommendations & bear the risk. Being an honest professional, the Arborist will need to base their judgment on scientific ground & not commercial ground, because any foul play can be easily detected or confirmed by this Station at a telephone or e-mail request. This Station will be most happy to send out an experienced Arborist to provide a second opinion at the listed prices stated in the CA Family anytime, if ever needed. If our local experts are not even considered to be good enough for the enquiry, this Station can always arrange international experts of all kinds to come over for an inspection at a higher cost. Sky's the limit for our ISA's support. Our society should really have professionals working best for their own field, not crossing over to disturb social harmony.

Arborists in the West would do their job within their profession. Arborists there won't survey land for their DLO equivalent in advanced nations. Arborists in HK equally won't do the same thing either. Are tree affairs our DLO's interested expertise?

HK is indeed unique in some of our arrangement to show the world really ...

best regards,

Sammy Au
Station Manager

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