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Tree Conservation 

Tree is important to the environment, landscape, economy, as well as the health of people. However, the current tree management mechanism (if there is one) simply fails to protect trees, even for Old and Valuable Trees. Firstly, a comprehensive tree ordinance (for protection and management) is not established. Secondly, although there is the Greening, Landscape and Tree Management Section under the Development Bureau, the inter-departmental coordination work on tree management is very poor. Thirdly, tree management work here follows the “fire-fighting” style.  Lastly, tree management work lacks proper monitoring, which always leads to poor quality.

To improve the tree management work, proactive, well planned and systematic tree management system are essential. These are implemented in many countries. To achieve sustainable greening, Hong Kong should set up a tree management inventory and carry out public consultation first. According to the tree resources on hand and the opinions of the public, a long term tree management strategy can then be prepared. The strategy should also be highly transparent and subjected to regular review. So, the public can participate and monitor the progress of the implementation.

In addition, to achieve the highest level of tree management and protection, the Conservancy Association supports establishing a tree ordinance which embody the following principles:


  1. Trees, especially mature trees and woodlands in urban areas or urban fringes, are important assets and should be protected. Woodland with important ecological or environmental values should be designated as Tree Conservation Area. The Area should not be void even when leased. Trees with unique cultural and historical value should also be protected.
  2. Felling of a tree larger than a certain stem thickness should be approved by a relevant government authority. Written approval must be obtained before trees could be felled. Unauthorized tree felling will be penalized.
  3. The process of tree felling application should be transparent. Tree felling larger than a certain scale should be disclosed to the public. The public should be duly consulted.
  4. Planting trees in private lots should be encouraged. If the green space of the site is open to the public, the developer or owner should be compensated, such as by transfer of certain plot ratios.
  5. Management and maintenance works of trees should be performed by qualified arborists. A professional body should be authorized and responsible for maintaining the standards and handling complaints.
  6. As trees are public asset, there should be adequate and genuine community participation in tree protection and devising greening policy. 


Urban Greening


In 1900s, with the rising number of population and vehicles, the quick development took up more and more urban areas. Some of the best and biggest roadside trees had also been removed for development at that time. Since then, Hong Kong has been  established with the worldwide name “concrete jungle”. In 1963, Singapore started the greening campaign to create a better living environment. At that time, Mr. Lee Kwan Yew, Prime Minister of Singapore expressed that he “did not want Singapore to be Hong Kong(with respect to sacrificing countryside for urban buildings ”!

In recent years, people here have an urge for better living environment as well as higher green coverage. However, with the building-development-comes-first principle, urban Hong Kong left no greening space for planting.

To improve the living environment and establish long term greening strategy in Hong Kong, the Administration announced in the 2000 Policy Address to push ahead the greening works, especially the planting of more trees and flowers in urban districts (paragraph 14). The first two projects of Greening Master Plans (GMP) in Central and Tsim Sha Tsui were completed in 2007. Up to 2014, GMPs in urban areas (Hong Kong Island and Kowloon) were basically completed and the consultation works in New Territories were in progress.

The Conservancy Association has long been concerning about greening and pose the following views and concerns for the Green Master Plans after visiting the sites of the greening works on Hong Kong Island and Kowloon:

Tree Species Selection

The Government should be very careful about tree species selection. Growing space (both under and above ground) should be sufficient for tree species with large crowns, like Delonix regia, Ficus microcarpa, Samenea saman. Thorough considerations should be given before planting of tree species that drop leaves and fruits regularly such as Liquidambar formosana and Terminalia catappa, as these would require ample manpower to clean them up.


Enhancing Transparency

Species “election” is usually held in community forum to allow participants to vote for their favorite plants. Information on species selection criteria, potential problems or suitable growth environments, especially the grown sizes of the trees should be provided to the public, in addition to photos of flowers, fruits and tree forms so that the participants could make well informed choices.

The public has the right to know about the monitoring and maintenance schedules. How the works are conducted and well kept records should also be made known to the public; such information should be shown to the public on request.

The Conservancy Association suggests that reporting mechanism on the progress and achievement of each GMP project should be in place. The community should be able to know if the progress schedule is met and whether the themes set for the GMP, i.e. the Central and TST projects (namely “Heart of Gold” and “Jade Necklace” )live up to their names and achieve the proposed cityscapes.
In addition, the early GMP projects actually had special plant selection and planting plan to achieve the set themes. However, from our observation, recent GMP works in other districts failed to achieve the planned landscape themes. Instead, greening works in those districts are all too similar. 


Proper Management

Regular monitoring and maintenance works should be carried out by tree specialists. As some of the GMPS project trees in Tsim Shan Tsui and Central projects have already been damaged because of human disturbance and passing vehicles, protection of trees should be installed for those in vulnerable locations. Public awareness towards tree conservation should also be heightened.


Improving Conditions of Existing Trees

Greening is more than planting more trees and shrubs, caring works for existing trees are equally important. But we don’t see any current measure to protect or improve the condition of existing trees, especially Old and Valuable Trees in the GMP projects. GMP is a good and perhaps, the only chance to improve the conditions of some of the OVTS too, especially roadside ones. For example, many roadside OVTs exist in Wanchai and Causeway Bay, but current proposals mention no measure, not even expanding existing planters, opening up more paving for root development, etc., for the long term well being of these trees.

Nature Conservation

Dating back to 1980, the Conservancy Association has been a champion government conservation policy advocator since then. In line with the World Conservation Strategy, which was then promulgated by the World Conservation Union (IUCN), the Association published our own Conservation Strategy in 1981. We pointed out some twenty years ago that "the absence of conservation at the policy writing level is the most important obstacle to conservation". We also advocated anticipatory environmental policies, a cross-sectoral conservation policy and a broader system of national accounting, so as to integrate conservation with development. These principles are still valid now as they were then.

Heritage Conservation

All along the Conservancy Association has emphasized the importance of cultural and historical heritage as an integral part of our environment. As early as 1981, we called for agriculture to be maintained not just as an economic activity but also as part of our cultural diversity. We advocated the preservation and use of space for cultural institutions and activities in the face of growing urbanization.