Protester wants city’s vow not to harm trees

Staff writer, with CNA

Tue, Apr 02, 2013 - Page 3

The leader of a volunteer group at a school in New Taipei City (新北市) has been sitting in an old banyan tree on campus for 100 hours and has vowed to stay there until a promise is made not to harm the tree and several others.

Pan Han-chiang (潘翰疆) climbed the banyan on the grounds of Chiang-Tsui Junior High School at 6am on Thursday after five other banyan trees were excessively trimmed by workers of a contractor hired to build a swimming pool and underground parking lot on campus.

Pan told reporters yesterday that he would not come down until authorities reach a “concrete agreement” with the volunteers, who have pledged to protect the old trees at Chiang-Tsui, which was founded in 1976.

New Taipei City Government Secretary-General Chen Shen-hsien (陳伸賢), heading a group of city officials in charge of education, agriculture and public works, visited the school earlier in the day to hold talks with the tree protectors in the hope of finding a way to resolve the dispute.

Chen promised that before an agreement is reached, the construction project, which includes the relocation of 32 old banyan and ficus trees, would be suspended.

The contractor was also fined by the city government for the trees already damaged.

The talks were continuing as of press time.

Two days earlier, a certified arborist, Lee Pi-feng, examined the damaged trees at the invitation of the city government and said that “they have indeed been trimmed very badly.”

The best time to relocate tropical plants like banyan and ficus trees is between May and October, he said.

Architect Liu Shih-wei, another of the Chiang-Tsui tree protectors, said that modern architecture now seeks to co-exist with green space.

“Why are they removing these old trees to make way for a swimming pool and parking lot?” he asked.

Meanwhile, a report from the Taiwan Environmental Information Center, a civic institute devoted to environmental protection, described the incident as “the worst kind of environmental education” for students.