Rooting out causes of fallen trees

Mustafa K. Anuar

Malaysia must work harder to preserve the trees that add beauty and shade to the landscape. – The Malaysian Insight file pic, May 16, 2024.

MALAYSIANS, particularly Kuala Lumpur dwellers, were recently shaken – some literally – by incidents of trees being uprooted following thunderstorms.

On May 7, a 47-year-old man was killed when a huge tree came crashing down on vehicles in Jalan Sultan Ismail, in front of the Concorde Hotel, during an afternoon thunderstorm.

A 26-year-old man and an elderly Swede suffered injuries.

The fallen tree damaged 17 vehicles that were passing through the busy downtown road as well as a bus stop.

The monorail service that runs above Jalan Sultan Ismail was temporarily suspended because debris and tree branches had damaged the track, causing inconvenience to commuters.

On the heels of the event, on May 13 another large tree toppled following an afternoon downpour on Jalan Pinang in the central business district of Kuala Lumpur

Although there were no casualties in this incident, five cars and three motorcycles were damaged.

These incidents, which had understandably caused deep concern among many people, were deemed a wake-up call for the authorities.

But alarm bells should have rung much earlier when trees fell and damaged six cars as a result of a downpour in Kuala Lumpur in August 2022.

Perhaps the incident was then regarded as not serious enough to warrant attention from the authorities. Or worse, some could have considered it to be an act of God.

To be sure, the authorities need to be proactive and make laws to protect and maintain the trees especially when changing weather patterns have brought about climate unpredictability.

Another possible cause is development that does not respect the environment, causing environmental degradation and flash floods in city centres.   

Our maintenance culture in many sectors, which is generally poor, is also cause for concern.

Trees along the highways are left unattended so that their leaves obstruct highway signages, much to the chagrin of road users.

Tree roots that have grown out of the cemented pavements by the roadside are left to endure the elements.

In response to the fallen trees, Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department (Federal Territories) Dr Zaliha Mustafa had ordered City Hall to immediately chop down “high-risk” trees aged between 50 and 80 years old, and initiate a tree replanting scheme.

Perhaps there is a need to err on the side of caution here. Is it not possible to save some of these trees that have taken so many years to grow and add beautiful greenery and shade to the landscape?

Malaysia’s trees, would stand to benefit from what other countries do to protect their precious trees.

Let’s take our neighbour to the south. Roadside trees in Singapore are inspected by internationally certified arborists or tree scientists at least once every 12 months.

The inspection details are recorded and entered into a database for future use.

Obviously, incidents of uprooted trees and consequent calamities do not deserve a knee-jerk reaction. – May 17, 2024.

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