Pruning in the name of feng shui leaves JB lacking in greenery.
If you drive along Jalan Perisai in Taman Seri Tebrau, you will notice a row of trees without leaves and branches.
These trees, which once provided lush greenery for the street and the surrounding neighbourhood, are now reduced to “standing tree trunks” because a shopowner thought it was bad feng shui for his business and decided to trim them.
He felt the branches blocked the front of shops along the road resulting in a drop in business.
This is not the first such “slaughter” of trees that has occurred in the city.
Last year, several trees along Jalan Tebrau, near Plaza Pelangi, suffered a similar fate after traders complained that thousands of crows were nestling on the trees with their droppings falling all over the place.
Johor Baru City Council (MBJB), which succumbed to pressure from the traders, political parties and the media, had to prune the trees, leaving a row of stumps.
This is definitely a major eyesore as Jalan Tebrau is a main road leading to the city and into Singapore.
The same has also happened along Jalan Jerau in Pelangi and around Skudai.
Such cases are nothing new in Johor Baru, let alone in the country, as there is little awareness about the environment.
The Government is hoping to plant 20 million trees by 2020. Can this be achieved if people continue chopping trees indiscriminately in the name of feng shui or to chase away crows?
Looking back, I recall my early days as a stringer in Malacca when a reader called the Malacca Star office complaining that a 100-year-old angsana tree was going to be felled to make way for road expansion in Taman Sentosa.
This lady single-handedly campaigned for the tree to be spared and even claimed she was having sleepless nights since being told the tree would have to make way for a bypass linking Jalan Batu Hampar and the Ayer Keroh Highway.
She told of fond memories of various activities including having parties under the tree.
The road was completed soon afterwards and the tree was spared as the authorities found an alternative – which was to realign the road.
I am not against chopping down trees, but let us not get carried away or do it excessively or indiscriminately, especially after Johor Baru and several other cities in Malaysia have been found to be getting hotter.
Councils like MBJB play an important part in not only beautifying the city but also adhering to the law.
Under MBJB regulations, those found guilty of chopping down trees can be fined RM250 or face imprisonment of up to six months or fined not more than RM100,000.
In fact, the council for the first time is in the midst of taking a trader to court for chopping down trees.
While members of the public cannot be solely held responsible for chopping trees, MBJB’s recent decision to take stern action against its own employee for chopping off branches while pruning, proved it is committed to preserving the city’s environment.
The overseer, who earns about RM1,000 a month and has been with the council for 10 years, was given a maximum compound of RM250 per tree for all the trees damaged under the council’s park by-laws. He was also transferred out.
Such stern action should also be emulated by other councils.
Councils should not only spend millions in planting trees and flowering plants at road junctions or kerbs, but also be willing to spend money to provide personnel from their landscape units with the necessary skills to prune and maintain trees.
Study tours or even excursions should be held to award winning local councils such as Malacca City Council, which has been named best local council last year, or even to Singapore, which is internationally reputed as a garden city.
Such proactive measures are necessary especially with the state’s mammoth Iskandar Development Region (IDR), which will require balanced development to lure investors.
The IDR is not only about skyscrapers but also having green lungs to promote leisure tourism and a theme park.
Maybe this year, for World Environment Day today, we should emulate the reader in Malacca and try to preserve as many trees as possible, instead of the usual tree planting or leaving your cars at home and travelling to work by public transport.