Days numbered for 131 ‘sick’ roadside trees

Unhealthy: Some of the old trees that have been assessed by arborists in Jalan Macalister, George Town. — LIM BENG TATT/The Star

GEORGE TOWN: The days are likely “numbered” for some grand, old roadside trees here.

With girths so large that they will need the arms of three people to hug them, the trees are now wrapped with red and white tape because they failed an arboreal test, called resistance drilling.

Driven by a drill, a long, thin needle is inserted into the tree trunks to get readings on their wood density.

Variations in the amount of the resistance from the wood against the needle indicate possible decay or even hollow cavities hidden in the tree trunks.

Local government committee chairman Jason H’ng Mooi Lye said based on preliminary assessments, 131 trees were categorised as unhealthy and required Level Three risk assessments.

Most of these trees are along Jalan Macalister, Jalan Utama, Jalan Burma, Jalan Kelawai and Jalan Perak.

H’ng said 314 large roadside trees of more than 90 years old were being examined by arboreal contractors to carry out risk assessment and maintenance work.

“They are among a total of 1,195 trees being assessed now. So far, 561 trees have been checked and this work should be completed by next month,” he said.

On mainland Penang, he said 115,706 trees came under the purview of the local authority.

He said 96,586 of them had been inspected.

“A total of 23 trees were identified as at-risk trees and eight trees had to be felled.

“The remaining 15 trees will be felled soon,” he said.

The concern for risks from roadside trees began at the peak of the inter-monsoon period earlier this month.

Thunderstorms with strong winds toppled large roadside trees, causing one death in Kuala Lumpur and leaving several others injured while a mother and her child were almost killed in Penang.

Many cars were damaged and the monorail service in Kuala Lumpur had to be halted.

Pulau Tikus resident Jonathan Khoo, 45, said when he saw several large trees along Jalan Burma wrapped with red and white tape, he knew experts had determined that they would have to be felled.

“It’s sad. These trees have been here from the time when there were just farms and kampung houses.

“Our roads are shady because of these grand old trees, but this is for the sake of public safety.

“Roadside trees fall every year during storms and hit cars. So I believe there is no choice but to let the old trees go,” he said.

Arborist Mohd Dzikry Mohamad Hydzir gave the assurance to the public that the resistance drilling readings, called resistographs, gave accurate measurements of the condition of the trees.

He said arborists had meticulously analysed the resistograph readings of each tree before making recommendations.

He said local authorities would conduct careful studies of the marked trees to decide on which action to take – pruning, reinforcing or felling.

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