Managing Trees in the Urban Environment
Developing the city today would be much easier without the need to work around trees on development sites, especially within urban areas, yet a city does also need to protect its trees and needs detailed processes in place to achieve just that. The ‘hows and whys’ however remain a bit of a mystery to many in the construction industry. Here are a few pointers to working with trees in Hong Kong
Is all this tree protection malarkey a new idea?
Somewhat surprisingly perhaps, the first provision for protection of trees appears in the 1845 Ordinance for Prevention of Nuisances. A $100 fine was imposed for the ‘felling, cutting, destroying, or injuring of any standing or growing tree, shrub, or underwood, any grass sod or turf’. The need of villagers for both fuel and building timber had stripped hillsides of their vegetation, leaving only orchards, inaccessible areas and fung shui groves. By 1865 penalties had been upgraded to a felony crime resulting in prison sentences of up to 2 years, potentially with hard labour and whipping!
Street tree planting first took place in 1847 on Queen’s Road and continued through the following decades to most major roads. Even then, street activities, building works and road alterations proved a major threat to trees. Photos show that just five years after planting trees along Queen’s Road West in 1855 only one was surviving and continual replacement was necessary. By the 1870’s afforestation of the hillsides was initiated, not only to supply timber but perhaps also to improve the air quality and provide amenity according to records. Tree matters fell under the authority of the Colonial Secretary and nurseries were established to raise trees from seed, resulting in the creation of plantations of several million trees by the end of the century.
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