Botanic Gardens safe to visit: NParks

Botanic Gardens safe to visit: NParks
PHOTO: Lianhe Zaobao

Detailed checks of trees at Palm Valley completed after tragic incident on Saturday

It strikes suddenly and quietly, like a cancer, he said, with nothing to suggest its health is deteriorating.

This is the unpredictable nature of trees, according to Mr Ng Tze Peng from TP Arbo Care, and he said there is no reason for the public to be worried.

On Saturday afternoon, a tembusu heritage tree at the Singapore Botanic Gardens fell without warning, killing Ms Radhika Angara, 38, and injuring four people, including her husband.

At 40m tall, 6.5m in girth and over 270 years old, the tembusu tree had been given a clean bill of health during an inspection in September.

Mr Ng, a former NParks arborist, attested to the agency's commitment to look after trees around the country by staying at the forefront of inspection methods and equipment.

Speaking to The New Paper yesterday, Mr Ng said: "Accidents do happen. And the arborists are trying to minimise this. They do their best to maintain Singapore's city-in-a-garden image."

AVOID SPECULATION

With investigations underway, NParks' Commissioner of Parks and Recreation, Dr Leong Chee Chiew, yesterday urged the public to avoid speculating on the cause of the tree fall.

He said: "Going forward, we are already developing modelling techniques to better understand the structural behaviour of trees under varying environmental conditions such as rain, wind and soil.

"As we are still investigating the tree fall incident, we should not speculate on the cause of the tree fall and allow the due process to take its course."

In an update yesterday, NParks assured the public that it shares concerns about the safety of its trees in the Singapore Botanic Gardens, especially in view of the recent spate of intense weather conditions.

"We have completed a detailed check of all the trees in Palm Valley, and they are safe. We are also in the midst of conducting more checks for trees in the vicinity of the Palm Valley (such as the Rainforest) and all the Heritage Trees in the Gardens," said Dr Leong, in a statement.

Palm Valley, the site of the tree fall, remains closed to public access while clearance operations and investigations are ongoing.

The rest of the Gardens remains open and is safe for the public to visit.

The latest tree fall brings to mind other incidents here.

Last month, a yellow flame tree on Amoy Street fell, damaging at least two cars.

In September last year, a 12-storey-high heritage tree - a Purple Millettia over 60 years old - crashed through five apartments in Outram.

In both cases, NParks pointed to strong winds and rain that could have weakened the trees.

Outlining NParks' rigorous regimen to inspect and prune trees, Dr Leong said tree maintenance staff have been trained to become certified arborists since 2001.

The certification is done with the US' International Society of Arboriculture, one of the highest international standards.

From 2012, inspections for trees along expressways and major roads have been done once every six to 12 months - up from once every 12 to 18 months - to adapt to the increasingly unpredictable and severe weather conditions.

Measures to improve the general health of trees, such as routine mulching to supplement the regular fertilisers and pruning techniques to improve the structure and balance of trees, were also put in place last November, Dr Leong added.


This article was first published on Feb 13, 2017.
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