THE actions of several tree-loving residents of a South Buona Vista condominium may have saved 50 trees from the chop.
The Singapore Land Authority (SLA) and National Parks Board (NParks) had earmarked 63 Albizia trees in South Buona Vista Road to be cut down after one of its species at the Bukit Batok Nature Park toppled onto a dental assistant and killed her in May.
But after receiving a circular from the two bodies about their plans, Madam Chong Kuan Mui, 54, and several other residents of the Buona Vista Gardens estate sprang into action. They wrote to the authorities urging them to re-consider the decision and asked for a thorough inspection of the trees before felling them. Madam Chong also wrote to The Straits Times Forum, which published her letter on Dec 6.
She said she has enjoyed the lush greenery provided by the Albizias from her fourth-floor apartment for 18 years. "They provide so much beauty and shelter... These trees have provided a habitat for animals and birds. Where will the animals go if they are cut down? We should not simply fell them in a knee-jerk reaction to the incident in May."
The Albizia is a shady, fast-growing species that is native to Indonesia. It is a pioneer species, meaning that it thrives on the edges of tropical rainforest that has been disturbed. Albizias regularly grow to heights of 30m.
On Wednesday, the SLA and NParks said, in an ST Forum letter, that only 13 trees - perceived to be dangerous due to their proximity to residential areas and roads, poor condition or leaning position - would have to go.
A spokesman for NParks told The Sunday Times that the change was made after considering feedback from the public. She added that the other trees would be monitored and may be felled if necessary.
Although happy with the small victory, Madam Chong is still concerned about the 13 trees. She has written to the SLA again with her latest objections.
Madam Chong is not alone in her fight. At least two of her neighbours have also written to the authorities. Mr Nick Jacobs, 36, does not think the trees are in danger of falling or they "would have toppled in the recent spate of storms".
The communications manager said he moved into his first-floor unit in September because of the greenery. "We should have a management plan that is sensitive to the needs of people and nature. The branches could be pruned regularly, for example," he suggested. He is also planning to find out how many residents are in favour of retaining the trees.
NParks horticulturist Anton Van Der Schans has a more practical reason for not felling Albizias in bulk. "Large gaps in the foliage created by felling will be quickly colonised by more pioneer species," he said. "As these grow quickly, they stunt the growth of surrounding vegetation."
Mr Schans suggests progressively removing and replacing the Albizias with "longer-lived species" that will not threaten the surrounding plants or fall during storms or strong winds.
But Madam Chong still feels the Albizias should be left alone. "They are the only trees here and they provide beauty and shade."