Parliament: Number of tree failures in Singapore dropped three-fold from 2001 to 2016, says Desmond Lee

A tree that fell at Holland Close on Oct 3, 2016.
A tree that fell at Holland Close on Oct 3, 2016. PHOTO: SHIN MIN

SINGAPORE - The number of tree failures in the Republic has fallen three-fold since 2001, Senior Minister of State for National Development Desmond Lee said on Tuesday (March 7).

There were 3,000 tree failures in 2001. This dropped to 800 in 2016, with the introduction of a comprehensive tree management programme by the National Parks Board (NParks), Mr Lee said in Parliament during the debate over his ministry's Budget.

"But we are deeply saddened every time such incidents cause injury or loss of life," Mr Lee said.

He was responding to questions raised by NMP Dennis Tan on the management of trees in Singapore, following an incident on Feb 11 at the Singapore Botanic Gardens where a falling tree killed one woman and injured four others.

Mr Lee told the House that NParks' comprehensive tree management programme includes a rigorous regimen of inspections and pruning that is aligned with international standards. 

There are seven million trees in Singapore, two million of which can be found growing along the roads.

Tree inspections are carried out by certified professionals, and records are digitalised to facilitate information retrieval and to ensure that trees under NParks are checked and maintained according to schedule, he added.

"This system also enables NParks to zoom in on, and pre-emptively replace, storm-vulnerable species," said Mr Lee.

For fatal incidents, NParks will assist the police in their investigations, and independent arborists may be engaged on a case-by-case basis by NParks.

With growing unpredictability in weather conditions, Mr Lee said NParks has stepped up inspections and taken measures to improve the general health of our trees.

This includes routine mulching to supplement the application of fertilisers, which helps keep the trees healthy, and pruning techniques to improve tree structures and balance.

"NParks is also developing modelling techniques to better understand the structural behaviour of trees under heavy rain and wind," he said.