The Tree Party yesterday organized a demonstration in Xinhe Borough (新和) in Taipei’s Wanhua District (萬華) to protest against what it called the excessive trimming of 28 blackboard trees (Alstonia scholaris), and accused the city government of passing the buck when requested to investigate into the mistreated trees.
The trees, planted along Lane 484, Zhonghua Road Sec 2, had all of their canopies and a substantial portion of their trunks removed and now look like a series of utility poles.
The Tree Party’s Taipei City councilor candidate Lin Chia-yu (林佳諭) said the pruning method, known as tree topping, has been banned by the international community because it strips plants of all their leaves, which is an essential for photosynthesis, and deals considerable damage to their trunks.
She said the method basically kills the trees, as beheaded trees only have a 5 to 10 percent survival rate.
Those which are lucky enough to survive are likely to grow abnormally developed twigs attached to the bark thus increasing the chance of falling branches, which would pose a risk to public safety, she said.
Lin said the city government’s Parks and Street Lights Office told her that the pruning of the trees were commissioned by the Guohui public housing community to a private firm, and that the trees are not under the office’s jurisdiction.
The Taipei City Tree Protection Bylaw (台北市樹木保護自治條例) is only applicable to about 2,000 trees that are at least 15m tall or more than 50 years old, but excludes all other trees, she said.
Meanwhile, a member on the Guohui public housing management committee, surnamed Chi (紀), said that due to an amendment to the Public Housing Act (國民住宅條例), the city government no longer has authority over property belonging to public housing.
The Ministry of the Interior’s Construction and Planning Agency in January 2005 shifted the authority over public housing from the Public Housing Act to the Condominium Administration Act (公寓大廈管理條例), thereby divesting local governments of their control over public housing and transferring it to management committees formed by residents.
Presenting a directive issued by the Taipei City Construction Management Office in 2011, which stated that the trees in question are the property of the community, the land owner and deed holder, and, therefore, should be managed by the community, Chi said the pruning method for the trees was decided by a residents’ vote, and is completely legitimate.
According to Chi, the blackboard trees can grow up to five to six stories high, blocking the view and sunlight of many residents, who agreed that the trees be trimmed to one story high.
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