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  The Straits Times, 18 Dec 05
Split a road, save a tree
by Lee Sze Yong

IN A bid to preserve Singapore's natural heritage, the authorities spent $200,000 to save a mature angsana tree in Braddell Road from being chopped down due to road works.

In November last year, construction of the Braddell Road-Thomson Road-Lornie Road interchange began. Contractors found themselves staring at a 20m-tall angsana tree facing Braddell Road outside Raffles Junior College. It has a 7.1m girth and is estimated to be between 70 and 80 years old. The tree was part of a stretch of greenery along the pavement scheduled to be cut down so that a slip road could be built next to the main thoroughfare.

Rather than chop down the majestic tree, the Land Transport Authority (LTA) consulted the National Parks Board (NParks) on what it could do to save it.

Although the tree does not fall under The Heritage Tree scheme which protects historically or culturally significant mature trees, NParks felt it was worth preserving too.

An NParks spokesman says: 'Wherever trees are affected by construction works, NParks works with developers and agencies to preserve mature roadside trees, not only in cases where there are Heritage Trees.'

Early this month, a road construction team from the LTA tweaked the original road alignment plan to accommodate the tree. What was to have been a straight three-lane road towards Toa Payoh has now been split into three lanes - two on the left of the tree and the other on the right.

This means that the 56,000 or so vehicles that use Braddell Road every day must now branch to either the left or right lanes when they reach the tree. A tree 'well' was also built around the angsana to protect it from cars.

An LTA spokesman says it cost about $200,000 to accommodate all the changes. The figure covers laying the new lanes and building a permanent tree well. When the road works are completed - scheduled to be in the first quarter of 2008 - only one of the present two lanes to the left of the tree will remain.

The tree, which will be part of a slip road, will remain in its spot and NParks will continue to care for it.

The LTA spokesman says this is the first such instance of it coming to the rescue of a tree since the authority was set up 10 years ago. NParks, which manages more than 1.3 million trees around the island, says it is thinking of adding the angsana tree to the list of Heritage Trees.

Sales executive James Fong, 27, who rides a scooter and travels on Braddell Road after work, noticed the tree last Wednesday. 'I couldn't help but think the tree was a little out of place,' he says. He also found the road more cluttered and confusing because of the diversion. 'I wasn't sure which one led to Toa Payoh, but I guess I'll get used to it,' he adds.

Nature lovers interviewed were happy to learn how the two government agencies worked to save the tree.

Nature Society (Singapore) member Angie Ng, 62, says: 'It goes to show that not everything old needs to be replaced by something new.'

Was it a good move to save the angsana tree? E-mail stlife@sph.com.sg szeyong@sph.com.sg

Keeping the green alive

THE National Parks Board introduced The Heritage Tree programme in 2001 to conserve historically or culturally significant mature trees. A panel comprising officials and nature-loving volunteers will decide if a tree should be placed on the Heritage Tree Register, based on its height and girth which are indicative of its age, as well as its social, cultural, historical and educational significance. Members of the public can nominate a tree for consideration at www.nparks.gov.sg

There are currently 36 Heritage Trees, among them a tembusu in the Botanic Gardens estimated to be over 100 years old. No excavation is allowed around the roots of such trees, and metal conductors are placed on them to ensure they are not struck by lightning.

Two areas are also designated as Tree Conservation Areas. Any tree of girth greater than 1m, measured 0.5m from ground, in these areas cannot be felled without written permission from the authorities. Under the Parks and Trees Act, you can be fined up to $50,000 if you cut down a tree in these areas. The fine is on top of the compensation NParks can seek from the offender, who also faces a jail term of up to six months.

Last year, DTZ-Debenham Tie Leung Property Management Services was fined $8,000 for felling a 150-year-old hopea sangal in the Changi Tree Conservation Area. It also paid $76,035 to the State in compensation for the loss of the tree.

The Straits Times 23 Dec 05
Preserve our trees

I AM a lover of trees and I see a lot of value in Lee Sze Yong's story, Split A Road, Save A Tree (LifeStyle, Dec 18), in which the authorities saved an old angsana tree along Braddell Road.

In a small country like Singapore, it is imperative that the public takes an interest and learns to love trees and preserve them whenever possible.

About 10 years back, I was very sad to see a good-looking and mature cashew nut tree, with a girth of about 50 inches, being chopped down in Kang Choo Bin Road in the Hougang area. I am sure a tree of that size is rare if not non-existent in Singapore today.

I guessed at that time that the authorities were not able to monitor the many trees around the island, and those who felled that tree probably got away with it.

I recently saw a huge longan tree at the junction of Pasir Panjang and Clementi roads. It is next to an old corner shophouse earmarked for demolition. The tree must be 20 or more years old. I hope the National Parks Board can preserve it.

Tan Chee Meng

THANK you for your article on the angsana tree. The tree, together with other plants, are hardworking 'citizens' which help keep our atmosphere clean and fresh by processing carbon dioxide.

It is only right that the road, which is going to carry carbon dioxide-producing cars, be split. NParks has done a good job, and the Land Transport Authority and other government agencies should send a clear message to the community that care of the environment is so important a responsibility that a road should be diverted.

Vincent Gabriel

Is a single tree worth so much?

TO SPARE a mature angsana tree, the authorities built a tree well around it. They also reconfigured a straight three-lane road into two lanes on the left of the tree and one on the right. I applaud the effort to conserve the tree. Our natural heritage should be preserved.

However, the location of the tree is extremely hazardous to drivers. The rerouting of the road was so sudden that I almost crashed into the tree well one Sunday. My experience is not an isolated incident for I noticed that some drivers behind me had to swerve suddenly too.

Perhaps the Land Transport Authority should consider the consequences if this situation is not rectified.

An 80-year-old tree may have been saved but an eight-year-old boy may die as a result.

Tay Han Lin

I WAS driving along that stretch of Braddell Road mentioned in Lee Sze Yong's story and nearly got into an accident because I was confused by the new road system.

Sometimes, I wonder what the priority of the Land Transport Authority is - is it safety of drivers or to save a tree? Do we want to witness a bad accident before we look at alternatives?

Worse, how could the Government spend $200,000 to save the tree? Won't it be better to use this for other road works?

Sebastian Sim

I AM disappointed that the authorities have spent $200,000 to preserve the Braddell Road tree. When the Land Transport Authority reconfigures a road, the code of practice stipulates that it has to put up signs to alert the drivers at least 400m to 500m away. In this case, I think the LTA has failed to do so.

Is a human life less important than a tree?

Phua Gim Chuan

I DO not see the point in conserving the one majestic angsana tree when the rest of the trees had already been cleared. The tree is neither a rare species in Singapore nor does it contribute to the greenery along the road.

The sum of $200,000 can be better utilised to plant more trees or donated to charity.

Tan Yee Leng

What is a Heritage Tree? What is the current list of Heritage Trees? How can I nominate a tree for the Heritage Tree scheme? Details on the NParks website
with an online form to nominate a heritage tree.

More about the Hopea Sangal tree that got chopped down on Siva's habitatnews

Related articles on Heritage Trees of Singapore
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