Time to assess impact of wind and water before trees are felled

With the unfortunate loss of life due to the tree accident at the Singapore Botanic Gardens over the monsoon season, perhaps we should see what we can learn from the incident.

I believe that National Parks Board has done its due diligence by inspecting all the trees within the Botanic Gardens. However, the root of the problem may not be the fallen tembusu tree per se.

The removal of trees, especially large mature rain trees, in an area has a direct impact on the environment immediately adjacent to it.

Large trees provide a buffer against strong winds, absorb and channel rainwater, and provide a habitat for many animals and insects. With their removal, strong winds are not buffered, which can affect the surrounding trees.

Also, rainwater, which would previously have been absorbed by the mature trees, is channelled differently and eventually pools into different areas. The water-soaked soil has microfauna that can affect the remaining trees differently.

The area surrounding the Palm Valley has been subjected to major changes. The construction of the upcoming Napier MRT station, for instance, has seen the loss of more than a few old rain trees, a major buffer against wind and water.

Additionally, the adjacent plots of land have been cleared to facilitate the expansion of the Botanic Gardens.

Perhaps when we decide to remove trees in future, we should also assess the environmental impact of wind and water on the surrounding trees.

With global warming expected to bring wetter and more stormy weather, we need to view trees differently in urban Singapore.

Carl Baptista