The axing of four Chinese banyan trees on a slope on Bonham Road facing Centre Street by the Highways Department on Friday has sparked a controversy, Ming Pao Daily reported Monday.
A group of citizens organized a memorial gathering nearby for the “remains” of the four trees Sunday.
Professor Jim Chi-yung, chairman of the University of Hong Kong’s department of geography, hit out at the government for ignoring advice from tree specialists.
Jim, who sits on the Development Bureau’s expert panel on tree management, said he has advised against cutting the trees down, but his suggestions were not heard by the government.
He said the government failed to meet the expert panel’s reasonable expectations by not informing tree specialists before chopping the banyan trees down.
There were originally six Chinese banyan trees on the slope.
One of the trees fell on July 22, injuring two passersby.
The government then cut down another tree next to the fallen one.
The four remaining trees were chopped down on Friday night.
Jim said the government was simply overreacting, and its decision to cut down the trees was questionable from a scientific and objective point of view.
The Highways Department said it observed 16 cracks in the concrete wall where the four trees were located, the largest one being 2 centimeters long, and decided to act swiftly to ensure the safety of the public.
Jim argued that the authorities had only just conducted a special meeting on Monday last week with a panel of tree experts, who proposed installing supporting structures and trimming branches instead.
However, the authorities suddenly changed their mind and decided to chop down the trees without informing the panel.
A representative of the Development Bureau’s tree management section said that it was an urgent situation when cracks were observed on the slope, so an order was quickly issued to cut down the trees.
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