Invest in arborists; take better care of our trees

Kadir Danial

Modified 19 Oct 2018, 11:43 am

LETTER | Local governments should hire more arborists in its effort to create a more sustainable framework for cities and towns. Tree-cutting is counterproductive to the sustainable goals.

The Land and Natural Resources Minister Dr Xavier Jeyakumar recently announced a national reforestation programme. His commitment to sustainable development goals and the overarching issue of global warming is commendable.

However, trees aren’t supposed to be just in the jungles.

More urban areas need trees too. Trees in urban areas are indispensable. They act as our green lungs to improve air quality, provide shade for our blue-collar workers working under the sun, families and couples having picnics at our almost non-existent parks and kids having a good time at the playgrounds.

Unfortunately, local governments are still cutting down trees.

Of course, the local government merely perform their duties in response to the reports lodged by residents who are concerned about their well-being and property.

Occasionally, trees do fall down during extreme thunderstorms destroying cars, homes and blocking the roads as a result. Ipso facto, more trees are getting chopped down than they are planted.

One example I recall is trees near a playground being chopped down after they were reported by residents presumably because of their extended branches which hung over residential roads.
Fine, but they chopped those trees to the ground until just a foot or so remained. You couldn't even call what was left a tree trunk! Trees should not be chopped down to the ground. They could have been strategically relocated to a safer place within the area.

The crux of the issue is the lack of arborists in local councils. Up to 2014, there were only 75 arborists in Malaysia and many local councils don't have even one.

Fortunately, the situation has been gradually improving for local governments in Selangor and hopefully, other states will follow suit.

The role of an arborist is to plant, maintain and manage trees. They are trained as urban foresters and landscape architects who specialise in tree health care and tree care safety.

Siva, a certified arborist and tree risk assessor whom I spoke to said, “We need more experienced arborists in Malaysia which will translate to more trees being saved and rescued.”

With more arborists in local governments, the authorities would have the technical expertise to correctly choose and plant suitable trees at suitable places. They would routinely check and ensure the trees’ health and prevent them from falling on top of a car.

Trees are indeed important in an urban environment – they cool the air and reduce soil erosion, add beauty to the mundane concrete jungle, increase recreational opportunities and most urgently, reduce greenhouse gases.

For all that to happen, local governments must invest in arborists and they must take better care of our trees.

The views expressed here are those of the author/contributor and do not necessarily represent the views of Malaysiakini.