Think out of the box to tackle tree-falling problem

I refer to the recent incident of tree-toppling that injured several SMRT employees (SMRT group taking refuge from rain when tree fell on shelter; Dec 21) as well as the Forum letters on this topic.

I have no doubt that the National Parks Board (NParks) is doing its utmost in ensuring the health and stability of the trees under its care throughout Singapore.

However, maybe it's time for NParks to think out of the box and consider if there are other suitable technologies beyond the horticultural industry that can augment its current tree-management programme.

As a professional from the construction industry, I suggest that NParks consider the technologies and risk management-based approach commonly adopted in my industry.

For example, a risk management-based approach may help NParks to shortlist the species that are vulnerable to toppling in adverse weather.

With the data collected over the years, it may also be able to identify other factors that may contribute to the problem, such as weather or rain patterns, soil conditions, terrain (gradient, slope, vegetation), excavation works carried out nearby, proximity to shorelines and presence of buildings (which act as wind deflectors).

With this information, a risk matrix can be developed to identify which trees should be monitored more frequently than others, which will greatly enhance the effectiveness of NParks' tree-management programme, given the limited manpower and resources.

Another method it can consider adopting is real-time instrumentation monitoring, commonly used to monitor the movement of buildings adjacent to construction sites.

Instruments like electrolytic beam sensors can be installed on the tree trunks to monitor the tilt in real time and they can trigger off alerts automatically so that preemptive measures can be taken before disaster strikes.

We have seen how various government agencies like the Defence Science and Technology Agency and the Land Transport Authority worked together to solve train problems that crippled the Circle Line.

Let's adopt this same whole-of-government approach to tackle the tree-toppling problems.

Ben Tan

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 27, 2018, with the headline 'Think out of the box to tackle tree-falling problem'. Print Edition | Subscribe