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Plight of banyan trees is a blot on Hong Kong

Plight of banyan trees is a blot on Hong Kong

The preservation of heritage in Hong Kong’s constantly redeveloping urban environment has long been a sensitive and sometimes divisive issue.

Trees that have survived for half a century or more have become a treasured living part of our urban heritage. They are no longer so likely to be sacrificed for man-made “progress”.

Where they could pose a danger because of location and age, particularly in the case of wall trees – often banyans – on the city’s slopes, the government strives to strike an acceptable balance between public interest and responsible preservation of heritage.

You would not know it, however, from the plight of two Chinese banyans that have stood for at least half a century on former Water Supplies Department land near the Mong Kok East MTR station, a prime site managed by the Architectural Services Department during demolition to make way for redevelopment.

They pose no threat to anyone, and they are clearly living heritage identified in a planning report as likely to be placed on the Old and Valuable Trees list, a classification for care and protection.

But they have come under threat from piles of wreckage and waste, sparking concerns from residents and tree experts.