Singapore

Huge drop in fallen trees and branches

Incidents of falling trees and branches have dropped to their lowest level since recording of incidents began 16 years ago, despite online chatter which suggests the opposite.

Though at least five cases of toppled trees and fallen branches were blamed for causing traffic jams and damaging vehicles last month, the 361 incidents reported this year is a fall of 85 per cent from 3,000 in 2001, the National Parks Board (NParks) said.

The number this year is also less than half of the 800 recorded last year and involved mostly snapped branches, rather than uprooted trees, NParks added.

NParks credits the plummeting figures to its tree management programme, in which trees are inspected and pruned rigorously, and those deemed to be in danger of falling are replaced.

"We are also currently developing modelling techniques to better understand the behaviour of trees under varying environmental conditions," said Mr Oh Cheow Sheng, group director of streetscape at NParks, which manages about two million trees along streets, in parks and on state land.

NParks has also been replacing storm-vulnerable species, such as the Albizia and Spathodea trees, in forested areas next to roads.

Other enhancements to the programme, introduced in May last year, include pruning and crown reduction before periods of more severe weather events, such as the north-east monsoon in December. This is done on top of normal tree pruning.

Botanist Shawn Lum, a senior lecturer at Nanyang Technological University's Asian School of the Environment, said even with regular inspections and maintenance, an accident can still happen due to unexpected natural elements, such as a sudden strong gust of wind, or a long bout of heavy rain that loosens the soil.

Environment