When Super Typhoon Mangkhut hit Hong Kong, it caused extensive damage to trees across the territory. Trees of different sizes and species in various locations were affected. In the wake of the typhoon, various government departments spared no effort in dealing with the aftermath, removing fallen trees and clearing broken trunks and branches. Some companies and organisations even formed volunteer teams to render assistance. Earlier, I visited Kennedy Town Praya in the Western District and met with volunteers who had assisted in the clean-up work. I thanked them for the time and effort they put into the work to restore the community to its former cleanliness and tidiness.
Community participation in the clean-up work
The volunteers are staff of a tool supplier. Dr CHUNG Chi-ping, Roy, the responsible person of the company, said that his colleagues were very enthusiastic and keen to render assistance as they knew that the community needed a lot of manpower to clean up a large number of fallen trees after the typhoon. As they had suitable tools such as electric chain-saws and knew how to use them, they were able to help and hence took the initiative to contact the Government to see how they could pitch into the clean-up work.
On the day of my visit, the volunteer team was working with a contractor of the Leisure and Cultural Services Department (LCSD) to clear broken and fallen trees on a section of the pavement along Kennedy Town Praya. The pedestrian flow was not heavy but the fallen trees and debris were cordoned off, awaiting clearance. After sawing up the broken branches at the side of the road or those cut by the contractor with electric chain-saws, the volunteers removed logs and twigs of different sizes from the scene. According to the volunteers, they had been recruiting colleagues to take part in the clean-up exercise since last Tuesday after knowing that manpower was in acute shortage after the typhoon. They not only spared their time on weekdays to help remove fallen trees and debris from urban streets, they also went to Tai O or other remote areas at weekends to help the elderly remove rubbish accumulated outside their homes. The team consists of about 30 volunteers and their work is expected to last about one month.
Working hand in hand to foster the spirit of mutual help
Besides visiting the staff of Dr CHUNG’s company, I also went to Shek O Beach yesterday with the Director of the Chief Executive’s Office, Mr CHAN Kwok-ki, Eric, and the Commissioner of Customs and Excise, Mr TANG Yi-hoi, Hermes, to remove fallen trees and rubbish, and clean up the roads and the beach together with volunteers from six groups of disciplinary forces. I know that some contractors have also formed volunteer teams to help with the clean-up. I would like to thank the volunteers for their active participation in and selfless devotion to voluntary work, fostering the spirit of mutual help in their deeds. Their efforts certainly help speed up the removal of fallen trees, broken branches and debris in various districts.
Tyhooon Mangkhut caused even more serious damage than Super Typhoon Hato did last year. The storm was strong enough to uproot trees, and trees of various sizes grown in the past few decades in the urban areas were affected. So far, 46 000 reports of fallen trees have been received. Firemen and the Police Force had handled a large number of emergency cases during the storm, while staff of the Highways Department (HyD), Food and Environmental Hygiene Department, LCSD, Civil Aid Service and relevant departments made their best endeavour to remove fallen trees in the wake of the typhoon. The Development Bureau also mobilised more than 2 000 in-house staff from works departments and public works contractors to participate in the clean-up exercise. Our colleagues also arranged a site in Kai Tak to hold tree debris temporarily. All parties worked hand in hand to help bring the community back to normal.
Planting the right trees and adopting more native species
As trees are an important part of our living environment, various departments will arrange replanting to compensate for the trees lost. According to the Head of the Tree Management Office, Ms KO Wan-yee, Florence, under the principle of “Right Tree Right Place”, the Government advocates planting more native species not only because they can enhance biodiversity, but also because they are more resilient than exotic species as they have already adapted to the local climate.
The Greening, Landscape and Tree Management Section has just compiled the Street Tree Selection Guide, featuring 80 tree species (of which more than half are native species) suitable for different urban street environments. Each of these species can survive in day-to-day urban growth environment, with qualities such as climate adaptability, wind tolerance, and resistance to pests and diseases, etc. In addition, the shade cast ability, as well as the ecological and ornamental value of each of these species, are listed for reference by various government departments and the landscape industry.
Pilot scheme to replace ageing Acacia confusa
In the 1970s, the Government planted Acacia confusa (Acacia) extensively to increase vegetative cover and prevent soil erosion. Since the average lifespan of Acacia is about 50 years, these trees are entering senescence.
According to the Deputy Secretary for Development (Works), Miss Joey LAM, the HyD has launched a pilot scheme to replace senescent Acacia in poor structural conditions on slopes along the expressways with a wide range of native and naturalised plant species, so as to safeguard public safety, enhance biodiversity and improve plant resilience to environmental changes. The Tree Management Office also set the same goal for tree planting and replacement programmes in urban street environment with safety as the top priority. Also, it will take into account conservation issues and hold discussions with the local community.
Trees provide shading, moderate temperature, purify air and beautify our city. I hope that with the enormous efforts made on all sides, we will see a sustainable, healthy and robust urban forest.
30 September, 2018Back