Please Do Not Insult Our Intelligence – Can Trees Be Insured?

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Mariam Mokhtar

Ipohites have long had running battles with the Ipoh City Council (MBI) regarding trees that have been chopped.

Last July, concerned people contacted the Ipoh Echo (IE) to report tree felling activities along Jalan SP Seenivasagam in front of St Michael’s Institution. Reporters rushed to the scene and found the remains of a casuarina tree stump. Michaelian students, ranging from their teens to those in their forties who were former students, expressed sorrow as “that was the tree where we waited for our parents after school”.

MBI said that “checks on the health of the trees found that the roots and stem of this particular tree was rotten and posed a danger to the public. Hence it had to be felled soonest possible”.

‘One Birth, One Tree’

IE readers have since highlighted other tree cutting incidents and one reader proposed a more eco-friendly solution to replace trees that have been removed. Perhaps, MBI was listening because at the end of July, last year, a tree planting scheme was started.

An area called Taman Kelahiran (Birth Park) at the Gunung Lang Recreation Park was selected for the “One Birth, One Tree” programme, launched by Mayor Dato’ Roshidi Hashim. Parents could celebrate the birth of their child and pay RM31 for a tree, name plaque and certificate of participation.

Roshidi said, “Like the good qualities we hope from our children, the trees also provide shade and help beautify the environment.” Roshidi hoped to plant 2.6 million trees within five years, and stressed that ‘a condition would also be imposed on developers to plant trees in their project areas’.

Trees to be Gazetted

In mid-December, Roshidi announced that some trees in Ipoh would be gazetted and insured after they were found to be worth over RM1 million each.

He said, “We have identified four which have an estimated value of more than RM1 million each. Three are in Taman D.R. Seenivasagam and one is along Jalan Sultan Azlan Shah”. According to him, hundreds of these valuable trees would be insured against public acts of vandalism and other damages.

“We hope to gazette the trees by next year and we will also propose for enactment legislation to be drafted to ensure strict action is taken against anyone who purposefully harms or destroys the trees. At the moment, those who vandalise trees or chop them down are punishable under Act 172 of the Tree Preservation Order.”

Ipohites Protest Recent Tree Felling

One week after this reassuring announcement, MBI removed five trees which residents believed to be over 50 years old. It was reported that a hotel would be built at that particular site.

Many have written to the Ipoh Echo to question the destruction of the trees and said that the trees would have acted as a buffer for noise, dust, pollution and also shield the unsightly construction work.

Others wondered why efforts were not taken to replant the trees elsewhere: “It has taken 50 to 60 years for the trees to grow but just a few days to cut them down. How many 50- or 60-year-old trees are left in Ipoh?”

One reader asked “Why can’t the developers design and build around these trees and use the trees as a valuable amenity provided by nature.” Other Ipohites when interviewed condemned the removal of the trees and mentioned the ‘greed of the developers and the authorities’.

Many praised Singapore’s efforts at beautifying Singapore with mostly mature trees, and said that we needed to learn from the Singaporeans about maintaining, pruning and tree-disease treatment.

Stung by the barrage of criticisms in the IE, Mayor Roshidi issued a statement on January 4 which said, “The Council finds it necessary to fell the trees based on recommendations by the insurer who said that the trees were old and posed a threat to passers-by”.

Tree Insurance Impossible

On January 17, two weeks after the Mayor issued his statement, a report in the Star baffled Ipohites, ‘Insurers chop down plan to insure raintrees’. The report said that insurers were NOT willing to insure against trees in Ipoh because the plan was “rather impossible”.

The regional manager of an insurance company explained that ‘trees, unlike houses, do not have a market value that would appreciate with time’. He was unaware of insurance policies for trees. Moreover, he warned, trees could be vandalised.

Tree Vandalism Punishable?

This manager is right. The trees have been vandalised, by our MBI. So as the Mayor once explained, “….those who vandalise trees or chop them down are punishable under Act 172 of the Tree Preservation Order.”

Will Roshidi punish those responsible? Or is it a case of the left hand not knowing what the right hand is up to? Or perhaps, the Mayor’s policies on tree preservation have not been passed down the chain of command?

2 thoughts on “Please Do Not Insult Our Intelligence – Can Trees Be Insured?

  1. That is what Mayor vision of turning Ipoh into a vibrant city ‘Bersih,HIJAU dan Membangun’.Ipoh can remain green by chopping down trees.HaHaHaHa!!
    How much can ngos and civil society do.To shout,to bark etc?Government dont listen.Say what’The era where the government has excessive control and adopts a’government-knows-best’attitude is over…’i quote from DPM.1 Malaysia:Rakyat Didahulukan?

  2. In addition to Ms. Mokhtar’s article, the perception of “development” in the minds of our so called “administrators” is one of modern high tech buildings, 6 lane highways and interchanges, electronic gizmos, whistles and bells at everr street corner.

    This is the message that clearly comes across when we read about “development” in Ipoh and the whole, Malaysia. Mature trees are felled wantonly without much thought or consideration of options, tree wise and development wise.

    The so called “experts” who are employed by the civil service and unfortunately in the public sector are none too aware that trees, especially mature trees are actually an asset that proves invaluable to a district or zone in terms of aesthetics. Renowned master planners and architects worldwide, except in Malaysia, acknowledge this fact.

    Yes PAM, wake up and take note ! Are the architects you certify as professional capable of this philosophy ? Are your so called architects thinking green or is it just a ploy of salesmenship to the unknowing public.

    Likewise IEM, are the engineers you certify as “professional”, only applies to practice to “Malaysian Standards”. The standard being not to rock the boat when it comes to the commercial aspect of your business ??

    Don’t pardon me, but undoubtedly the answer will be to the contrary to the last two paragraphs.

    Pray then tell me why do you keep silent on these crucial issues.

    Heritage Society, your silence is indeed so disheartening. Are these trees that were chopped down not part of the heritage of the environment in Ipoh. As I had previously written, “HERITAGE” is NOT only applicable to buildings, but it does, in Ipoh.

    Sad to say, the desecration of the environment in Ipoh, just shows the state of mind of a majority of the people, so telling in the silence and acceptance of the lame, stupid and thoughtless excuses provided by the Mayor.

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