SAFELY DOES IT

A se­vere short­age of ar­borists is cost­ing the city in terms of eco­nomics, safety and aes­thet­ics.

Bangkok Post - - FRONT PAGE - By It­sarin Tisan­tia

Trained ar­borists can help avert city tree dan­gers

With strong winds, heavy rains and wob­bling root tap sys­tems, trees along streets are of­ten deemed as the cause of ac­ci­dents. The lat­est fa­tal case took place in May last year when a large tree si­t­u­ated in front of the Alma Link Build­ing near the Cen­tral Chid­lom Depart­ment Store top­pled over af­ter it was shaken by heavy rain and wind. The tree also brought down power poles which crashed into three mo­tor­cy­cles, killing one woman, and in­jur­ing two oth­ers on Chid­lom Road.

Last year, the Bangkok Met­ro­pol­i­tan Ad­min­is­tra­tion (BMA) es­ti­mated there were 1,925 trees on Bangkok’s roads, sois and pub­lic parks which were at risk of fall­ing. These trees are un­der the ju­ris­dic­tion of the BMA and lo­cated in close prox­im­ity to peo­ple, com­muters and mo­torists.

To re­duce the risks of fall­ing trees, emer­i­tus pro­fes­sor Decha Boonkham, a na­tional artist and founder of the Thai As­so­ci­a­tion of Land­scape Ar­chi­tec­ture, said the coun­try needs more pro­fes­sional ex­perts.

The prob­lem of top­pling trees stems from a lack of knowl­edge on how to prop­erly take care of them.

Emer­i­tus pro­fes­sor Decha — of­ten called “Ajarn Decha” — said trees are an es­sen­tial part of the city.

The pres­ence of trees en­hances both the aes­thetic and fi­nan­cial value of sur­round­ing prop­erty. Need­less to say, trees also solve air pol­lu­tion prob­lems and com­bat cli­mate change.

“Trees [on Bangkok’s streets] are of­ten removed by cut­ting near the base of the trunk. This form of tree re­moval can be dan­ger­ous if the process is not ad­e­quately planned and ex­e­cuted. We have to pay at­ten­tion to the se­lec­tion of trees, in­spec­tion work, po­si­tion­ing, and tree felling tech­niques,” Mr Decha told a re­cent sem­i­nar on “Sus­tain­able Man­age­ment of Large Trees.”

The sem­i­nar, in Bangkok, was hosted by BIG Trees, Tham­masat Univer­sity, and Thai As­so­ci­a­tion of Land­scape Ar­chi­tects.

A part of the sem­i­nar in­cluded a work­shop held at Suan Pakkad Palace Mu­seum in Bangkok, where sem­i­nar at­ten­dees learned about plant­ing de­sign, land­scape de­sign, as well as wit­nessed a demon­stra­tion by a “tree sur­geon” on how to cut and re­move trees cor­rectly.

The sem­i­nar was also held to demon­strate the im­por­tance of tree con­ser­va­tion and the need for “tree sur­geons” to help pro­tect ur­ban trees.

An­other name for a tree sur­geon is an ar­borist, which refers to some­one whose job con­cerns tree cul­ti­va­tion, man­age­ment and the study of in­di­vid­ual trees, shrubs, vines and other peren­nial woody plants.

How­ever, find­ing a fully qual­i­fied ar­borist is ex­tremely dif­fi­cult in Thai­land, with only a few up­mar­ket gar­dens, such as the Royal Palace, em­bassies and up­scale ho­tels hav­ing in-house ar­borists.

This is not nec­es­sar­ily be­cause the coun­try lacks knowl­edge in ar­bori­cul­tural ed­u­ca­tion, but rather be­cause most tree ex­perts in Thai­land come from Kaset­sart Univer­sity’s Fac­ulty of Forestry, where there is an em­pha­sis on forests and not ur­ban trees.

The state of ur­ban tree con­ser­va­tion and man­age­ment in Bangkok is sim­i­lar to that of Sin­ga­pore more than a decade ago. At that time, pro­fes­sional ar­borists were vir­tu­ally un­heard of.

How­ever, cities that give pri­or­ity to ur­ban tree con­ser­va­tion use ar­borists who are pro­fes­sion­ally trained to take care of trees. A cer­ti­fied ar­borist can earn a hand­some in­come.

Those work­ing in Sin­ga­pore earn about 80,000 baht a month, ac­cord­ing to in­for­ma­tion from BIG Trees, a lo­cal ur­ban con­ser­va­tion net­work.

Sin­ga­pore started us­ing ar­borists more than a decade ago. As a re­sult of the use of le­gal in­stru­ments and in­cen­tives, the city was able to keep big trees alive and thriv­ing in an ur­ban jun­gle.

The Sin­ga­porean gov­ern­ment has is­sued laws to con­trol the height of build­ings and elec­tric­ity poles and of­fered in­cen­tives to de­vel­op­ers to safe­guard big trees.

Pro­fes­sion­ally trained ar­borists can help de­cide whether or not a tree should be removed and they pos­sess the skill and equip­ment to safely and ef­fi­ciently re­move trees.

With proper main­te­nance, trees can add aes­thetic and eco­nomic value to prop­erty. Poorly main­tained trees, on the other hand, can be a sig­nif­i­cant li­a­bil­ity.

The prob­lem of top­pling trees stems from a lack of knowl­edge on how to prop­erly take care of them.

FA­TAL AC­CI­DENT: Last year, the BMA es­ti­mates there were 1,925 trees in Bangkok at risk of fall­ing. In this photo a large tree right in front of the Alma Link Build­ing near the Cen­tral Chid­lom Depart­ment Store was top­pled by heavy rain and wind last year, re­sult­ing in a woman’s death.

NO­TABLE LAND­MARK: A famous old tree in the grounds of Chu­la­longkorn Univer­sity.

SUR­GEON IN AC­TION: Tree sur­geons, or ar­borists, look af­ter the cul­ti­va­tion, man­age­ment and study of in­di­vid­ual trees, shrubs, vines and other peren­nial woody plants.

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