Wednesday, July 18, 2007

ISA HK/China --- Tree Planting to cool HK Pt. 2

*** 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,

Further to our station Mail a little while ago on the benefit of Tree Planting to cool our over-developed city, another warning came from the Director of HK Observatory Mr. CY Lam, on 14.7.07 that HK may lose its winter in a mere 40 years, instead of the initially estimated 50 years mentioned by him in less than a month ago.

His comments in Chinese can be visited at: .

HK is indeed getting hotter & hotter year by year. The Station Manager has noticed that it was 37C outside his office in Sheung Shui at 2 pm on July 16 & it was an alarming 39C at ETF during his visit at 2 pm on July 15. While the trees were so chosen to tolerate this temperature by selection at ETF, it was not so for the poor workers there working under sun. They could simply only recess & ETF was losing productivity.

Singapore has taken a measured foresight to cool their city by massive Tree Planting since the 1960's & they have preferred canopy coverage for practical reason instead of going blindly for flowering. After all, flowers on trees are really meant for attracting insects & birds for reproductive reason. We human just so happen to enjoy them as uninvited guests. On the other hand, how long a period would any flowering last for most of our trees anyway? Maximum for a month? How useful would these trees really be after flowering, to meet our desperate need of cooling our city, if they would really flower according to design (Flowering actually require many physiological criteria) ?? Maybe the answer can be obtained by counting the number of people strolling our city parks during high noon in summer. Many, or just a few ? Why ? Is it too hot to stay ??

If our 'flowering' trees do not have adequate canopy coverage to trap sun's ray, it will then be our concrete & other hard surfaces to absorb & release the heat to us day & night. In our current city texture, they are apparently the winners.

Then would anyone still insist to select our trees for 'flowering' only & whose money are being spent? Is that money really justified for individual compassion?

Some research papers published recently on the Cooling Effects of Trees have over-emphasized the reflectivity (albedo) of trees & have actually ignored the total energy absorption of Photosynthesis in its simplest form:

6CO2 + 6H2O ---> C6H12O6 + 6O2
Carbon Dioxide + Water ---> Carbohydrate + Oxygen

During Photosynthesis, the sun's energy is absorbed, turned & stored in the form of chemical energy in carbohydrate, which is then transformed through physiological processes with other compounds (partly from fertilizers) to form plant tissues, the predominant of which is Wood. If this wood is not immediately used as a an energy source by primarily combustion, it can be stored or compressed through time to be turned into fossil fuels, which during burning, will give us the energy so trapped by the sun. Therefore, trees are storing the sun's energy in an efficient & environmentally friendly manner, besides their many other social & psychological benefits to us. Just look at how human & animals stow under trees to get cooled in the tropics.

However, if we are going to plant trees to trap sun's energy & cool ourselves, we shall need to understand how to select, plant, maintain & inspect these eventually massive structures so that they will not become our liabilities. Mature trees can fall to kill people & damage properties, in storm & in tranquillity. Hence Western countries require Arborists to look after their trees, so does Singapore. Arborists are Tree Doctors & Tree Detectives, & tree care is their subject.

It is a practice that in Western countries, Arboriculture is a Practitioner Trade & Arborists need to touch trees, not only books & computers. ISA was inaugurated in 1924 when a lot of other Greenery Institutes were not even conceived. ISA was established out of a social need, not as a hobby.

If HK is going to select, plant, maintain & inspect our trees properly so that trees can become our asset instead of liability like in Singapore, it is only logical that we need Arborists to look after our trees. The Station Manager has always compared Horticulturist as Veterinary Surgeon to Arborist as Human Doctor. Each specializes in their own field. What organization can then supply & maintain qualified Arborists to international standard in HK/China at present? Perhaps only ISA HK/China with our growing 390 Station Members & international connection, because we are the biggest currently & very much alive.

Our Station will no doubt participate more & more into the HK society, if HK would demand quality trees to become our asset. Taiwan & China will be next.

If not, may be we shall need to turn on our air-con higher, & higher, & ...

best regards,

Sammy Au
Station Manager

Monday, July 16, 2007

ISA HK/China --- An 'Imaginary' Arboricultural Office in the HKSAR Govt

*** 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,

For years politicians & experts in HK have been calling to set up a Govt Dept to handle all tree affairs & to legislate Tree Laws. However, nobody has come up with a solid proposal on how to do so. Maybe one reason is that hardly any of them understands enough about proper tree care in international practice & the complexity of skills involved. Can car drivers design aeroplanes?

Our Station has taken some time to study the structure & functions of various overseas Arbor Offices in several countries & have come up with a proposal to design such a controversial Dept suitable for our current condition for the reference of anybody. We call it the 'Imaginary' Arboricultural Office, because in HK we believe in innovation.

The structure of the Imaginary Arboricultural Office (ArbO) is given in the attachment for study by our Govt & public. Please print it out & refer.

ArbO will consist of a Principle Arboricultural Officer (PAO) & 4 Arboricultural Officers (AO(1) to AO(4)) besides the usual admin & finance staff. These 5 major officers will form the backbone of ArbO. They are all specialists in their own field & their duties are as follows:

1. PAO --- This team leader will design & operate ArbO to the satisfaction of the Govt & public on any matter relating to Urban Tree Care. The PAO must be knowledgeable in Arbor trade & be political enough to face Govt bureaucrats & politicians alike. The PAO must be fluent & eloquent in local languages, & be experienced enough both in office & on trees to earn the respect of staff & opponents. PAO will be the star of the show & his/her leadership will determine the survival of ArbO in the initial 2 year trial period of ArbO. If the wrong person is chosen, ArbO is doomed to fail.

2. AO(1) --- This is the Policy Division led by an office type of Arborist mostly dealing with approval & submission of Master Landscape Plan with focus on trees, Tree Surveys, & Felling/Transplantation/Pruning Application of mature trees on site. AO(1) is also responsible for unifying General Specifications on Trees for all Govt Depts, Law Enforcement & Prosecution of any violation of Tree Laws, Protection & Preservation of Trees, Design & Safety Advisory on tree matters, & preparation of Tree Legislation as so required by Legco. AO(1) will need to go on site to study trees in situ for various applications & complaints. An Arborist with landscaping background is recommended for the post of AO(1).

3. AO(2) --- This is the Operation Division over-looking all tree actions on site & is to be led by a qualified Tree Climber with adequate knowledge in field operation. AO(2) will be responsible for Inspecting Nursery Stocks, Planting Supervision, Maintenance Supervision which includes Tree Felling & Structural Pruning, Protection & Preservation Supervision which includes Lightning Protection, Cabling & Bracing, Advanced Tree Climbing Operation to help AO(3) in Tree Inspection & Hazard Analysis when necessary, to help AO(4) in training Govt & Private Tree Climbers, & Emergency Clearance Operations during typhoons & unexpected tree failures. AO(2) will be the action person among the 4 Divisions, & will be ready to work round the clock during emergency & at weekends for training purpose.

4. AO(3) --- This is the Urban Forestry Division to be led by an experienced Tree Assessor Arborist with ability to build a Tree Inventory for the 730,000 no. of our Urban Trees all over HK. Besides this massive operation, AO(3) will have a team to carry out yearly Tree Inspection & Hazard Analysis to minimize potential tree failures in our territory. In a way, AO(3) is on call 24 hours a day & 7 days a week for particularly Emergency Tree Hazard Assessment which could lead to immediate tree removal during stormy weather, together with AO(2) operating during emergencies on site. AO(3) will advise AO(2) on which trees to remove, because AO(2) is supposedly a more experienced Tree Assessor. AO(3) & staff must also be qualified Tree Climbers on machines or ropes when necessary, for Aerial Inspection & Rescue during Tree Inspection & Assessment. The Old & Valuable Trees Management will also fall into the domain of AO(3).

5. AO(4) --- This is the Education & Research Division responsible for Arbor training in Govt Depts & public. AO(4) will work with various institutes & private developers to offer Arbor Seminars & to explain Govt policies on Tree Affairs. AO(4) will organize & supervise Arbor training with local & overseas trainers for Arbor training at different levels. Collecting Tree Failures Data is part of AO(4)'s research besides identifying suitable trees for landscaping use in urban areas during the routine Tree Inventory & Tree Inspection of AO(3). AO(4) will also assist PAO in answering Legco enquiries & will advise AO(1) in Prosecution & Legal Affairs with the latest development in international Arbor research. AO(4) is the liaison with regional Arbor partners & International Organizations such as ISA, Nparks, USFS, ITFD, FAO, etc. on Arbor research & practices. AO(4) will conduct Tree Climbing training to Govt & Private Sector in conjunction with staff of AO(2). Since AO(4) is really the Publicity Officer & Training Organizer of the 4 Divisions, AO(4) should also be a qualified Tree Climber & is likely to work day & night for the various social functions, training & seminars.

Out of the 5 major officers in ArbO, only AO(1) is not required to conduct regular Tree Climbing, although knowing how to climb is an obvious technical advantage. AO(4) may need to perform Basic Tree Climbing in conducting seminars & training sessions, but should be familiar with all the Tree Climbing & Rigging Skills, at least in theory, for selecting local or overseas Tree Climbing Trainers. Although the AO(1-4) will work independently from each other, support to each other is deemed necessary because ArbO will work as a team, & not individual heroes.

It can be seen that ArbO is an unusual office full of experts with specialist skills working day & night for more a mission than salary & welfare. Arborists all around the world have a common character of respecting their profession more than money, & most are willing to sacrifice for the course & not bent.

The administration of ArbO is proposed to be as follows:

1. Every person in ArbO should be signed on a 2 year contract for practical reasons:

a. If ArbO does not perform as expected, it can be closed down after 2 years without too much disturbance to the Govt system.

b. It is likely that staff from other Govt Depts will be seconded to join ArbO & they may not enjoy the pressure of work & strict discipline demanded in ArbO. Tree Work is a very dangerous profession indeed. More Tree Workers are killed or injured every year than Firemen & Police put together in USA .

c. Although it is a Govt policy to work 5 days in a week in HK, in view of the tremendous amount of initial work in ArbO, it is unlikely that PAO & AO(1-4) will be working less than 6 days/nights per week in the first 2 years when ArbO is started. In short, the senior ArbO staff will work at least one day free of charge for our Govt & public, to earn respect from other Depts & anybody. Some of the staff may not want to carry on after their 2 year contract has expired. A change of guard may become necessary after every 2 years. In fact, the PAO is not even expected to take any vacation in the 2 year contract because of the apparent workload. ArbO can not be lenient if it is to be started well, sustain & to earn the cooperation instead of jealousy from other Govt Depts & suspicion from the public. ArbO will be truly 'blood & thunder' all the way until our tree affairs are on proper track in line with international practices.

2. In admin structure, ArbO should be attached directly to the Chief Secretary for authority instead of placing it under any Govt Dept to avoid departmental interest over-riding ArbO, if ArbO is truly desired to perform its duties. In Singapore, Nparks is placed under the Ministry of National Development which is just under the Prime Minister Office. Nparks is no. 3 in the ladder & can not be easily disturbed in its work. If attaching ArbO to the Chief Secretary invites too much criticism, ArbO should be at least attached to the Environmental Protection Dept (EPD) for independency.

3. Owing to the high level of expertise involved, hardly any Govt Dept at present will have adequate knowledge to supervise ArbO in its technical performance. Hence, the future ISA organization of HK/China can be invited in a committee format to help analysing the progress of ArbO & advise the Govt on ArbO's technical performance.

4. ArbO staff should comply to the principles of Integrity, Professionalism & Participation with an attitude of fact-finding & truth-telling laid down by ISA HK/China in their work, on top of Govt regulations. All ArbO technical staff should belong to ISA HK/China for moral discipline & let ISA HK/China govern their behaviour. In a nutshell, if any ArbO staff is evicted by ISA HK/China on moral ground, it's time for ArbO to consider terminating his/her contract.

ArbO will become a unique office in the HKSAR Govt. ArbO should be a model & an example of Govt Depts. ArbO staff will not aim solely for job promotion & welfare, but will require their work to be done well with honour. ArbO will no doubt intercept opponents both in Govt structure & public because of their influence & dedication. However, with Integrity, Professionalism & Participation as competition banner, armed with fact-finding & truth-telling, may the best team win at the end of the day !! All in all, it will be the public who benefit if ArbO survives.

Although the ArbO structure is primarily aimed for the HK Govt, our regional partners are welcomed to make reference if they would like to set up their own.

If ArbO can ever begin in the HK Govt, maybe it can take reference from some famous events in military history.

"In January 1879, the Zulu King of South Africa decided to go to war with Britain in consideration of their superior number & military success locally. On 22 January 1879, a Zulu army of 20,000 crushed & killed 1,329 British & native troops in Isandhlwana & over 4,000 of them were then marching to attack the small British Army depot at Rorke's Drift which was held by a small regiment of 139 Welsh Engineers commandeered by Lt. Chard & Lt. Bromhead.

The Zulus were known for their ferocity in battle & their warriors could outrun Calvary horses. They could run 50 miles in a day & then fought a battle at the end. Their weaponry was efficient in hand to hand combat. The Welsh Engineers seemingly had no chance to hold their position against these formidable warriors with their smaller number & open position. Just before the battle started, the native volunteer soldiers accompanying the Welsh Engineers abandoned the depot & called the British mad & suicidal. However, Lt. Chard, the senior in command, ordered Lt. Bromhead to prepare defence because they had no order to retreat. They were ready to do their duties.

Waves of tidal attacks descended from the Zulu who just won a victory the day earlier on the small Welsh garrison & the Zulus regarded this small regiment of British Army an easy prey. However, the British repelled successfully attacks after attacks with dogged determination to stand their position, never yielding in spite of their inferior number & heavy casualties. The fighting went on for two days & Zulus were losing their hundreds with the British defence lines broken at several pockets. Despite casualties & exhaustion, the British fought on without giving up. They stood their valour without fear in front of a crushing enemy in a ratio 1 to 28.

At the end of repeated charges, the Zulu Chiefs decided the defenders deserved respect & honour for their bravery. Even the savages have principles for gallantry. After chanting war praise to the Welshmen in a farewell bid, the Zulu army withdrew in an orderly fashion & left the defenders to lick their wound. The 139 Welshmen, dead & injured for many, had held their position & performed their duty.

This small band of Welsh Engineers now left their names in history & let the followers admire their deeds. They were eventually awarded 11 Victorian Crosses to their commanders & soldiers for their exceptional performance, honouring them for their gallantry & bravery in an impossible battle. The Rorke's Drift Defence has been the most ever awarded with Victoria Cross in a single battle in the British military history."

The setting up of ArbO in our Govt is anticipated to be something like Rorke's Drift, at least in the beginning. Only the brave & determined should come into ArbO to leave their names in Arbor history in HK/China.

The famous song 'Men of Harlec' was resonated by the Welsh Engineers during the Zulu battle:

'Men of Harlec on to glory.
This will ever be your story.
Keep these burning words before ye.
Welshmen will not yield ...'

The staff of ArbO may need to remember these words in their push against odds in their future 'mission impossible'.

best regards,

Sammy Au
Station Manager

Structure of the ‘Imaginary’ Arboricultural office (ArbO) in the HKSAR Govt

Principal Arboricultural Officer (PAO)

Administration Finance Arboricultural Arboricultural Arboricultural Arboricultural
Manager Manager Officer (AO1) Officer(AO2) Officer (AO3) Officer (AO4)

Asst Asst. Asst. Asst. Asst. Asst. Asst. Asst.
Arboricultural Arboricultural Arboricultural Arboricultural Arboricultural Arboricultural Arboricultural Arboricultural
Officer (1a) Officer (1b) Officer (2a) Officer (2b) Officer (3a) Officer (3b) Officer (4a) Officer (4b)


1. AO(1) is the Policy Division responsible for submissions in Master Landscape Plan, Tree Survey, Felling, Transplantation, Structural Pruning, etc, & for Prosecution, Enforcement, Protection & Preservation, Design & Safety Advisory, & Legislation of Tree Regulations.

2. AO(2) is the Operation Division responsible for Nursery Stocks Inspection, Planting Supervision, Maintenance Supervision, Protection & Preservation Supervision, Tree Climbing Operation, Emergency Clearance (Sudden Failure & Typhoons) Operation & Tree Climbing Training.

3. AO(3) is the Urban Forestry Division responsible for Tree Inventory (Urban), Regular Tree Inspection, Hazard Analysis, Old & Valuable Trees Management.

4. AO(4) is the Education & Research Division responsible for Govt staff Training, Community Education, International Liaison, Tree Failure Analysis, & Tree Climbing Training for Govt Staff & public (in conjunction with AO(2)).