Climatic changes require a change in the way how urban trees need to be managed

WHILE climatic change requires a change in the way we manage tree planting exercise in urban areas, it is the lackadaisical attitude that is hardest to change for the employees in our local councils.

Journalists who were doing the City Beat 40 years ago would be able to tell that there is no difference in the way how our urban trees are managed. Once a job is done, they expect the trees to take care of themselves.

In the 1980s, there was an emphasis for more trees to be planted in the city of Kuala Lumpur. It was part of the greening of the federal capital.

But after the trees were planted, they were allowed to grow until they become too big to be managed. Some of these trees grow old and become sick at the roots, the result of which the trees beccome easily uprooted, thus posing a danger to both the public and their properties.

Last week when heavy thunderstorm and strong wind struck certain parts of the Klang Valley, a lot of the older trees were uprooted.

A survey around places such as Kepong Baru, Segambut, Desa City Park, Bandar Menjalara and Bukit Maluri show that the remains of these trees are now being gradually removed.

The New Straits Times reported that at least 40 vehicles were damaged by these fallen trees. The devastation done to both public and private properties can run into the millions within just a few hours.

What’s worse is when lives are killed when the tree trunks fall on them either when they are waking or driving by the spot of a fallen tree.

Why the havoc?

Blame it on the environment for wreaking havoc but a lot of this man-made “tragedy” is unnecessary given things would have been quite different had the Kuala Lumpur City Hall (DBKL) taken more proactive measures.

Like humans, trees grow old and their roots start to fail them. This is where City Hall officers should have taken the cue from residents themselves when they complain about an old, sickly tree in front of their homes.

Often, the local residents are the ones who know the age of the trees. Some of these trees were planted when they were children – and over the years – these trees gradually become sick or diseased.

While the City Hall can claim that the trees were planted by the residents themselves, most people especially the retirees do not know what to do except to inform the council staff.

To engage an independent group of workers to remove the trees may be costly. For this reason, these trees are waiting for another disaster to happen.

Unfortunately, when they complain to City Hall officers, their complaints are ignored – until a disaster like last Tuesday’s (Sept 19) havoc hit and every finger is now pointed at the “unusual thunderstorm.”

But the truth is this havoc could have been avoided if efforts were made to manage the trees properly. Trees that are huge but old, sickly or infected by diseases can pose a danger to the public. It is time for these trees to be removed and replaced with newer trees.

Need more initiatives

One will only have to wait for another three months to realise that after the fallen trees are removed, new ones are never planted again. Why?

The attitude of the average civil employees is to always wait for the instructions from the top. They simply have to wait for the one-word instruction to come from the minister or Prime Minister (PM) before they do anything. They need to be more customer-centric by treating urban KLites as their clients.

Greening the city does not necessarily mean only planting trees that are foreign to our country. A decade or two ago, a local council spent millions of ringgit just to import palm trees from the Middle East but none of these trees exist today!

Unless the trees are the more hardy types, there is also no need to plant huge trees. In fact, a better option may well be to plant grafted fruit trees which allow people to easily reach out to enjoy the local fruits.

City Hall employees need more initiatives on their own to do what is necessary to green the city of Kuala Lumpur, yet not allowing another major thunderstorm to wreak havoc.  – Sept 24, 2023


Pics credit: Segambut MP Hannah Yeoh’s Facebbook

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