SINGAPORE — The annual number of tree failure incidents in Singapore fell from about 420 cases in 2019 to around 340 cases as of end 2020, said the National Parks Board (NParks) following the death of a woman after a tree fell on her at Marsiling Park on Thursday (18 February).
This continued a declining trend from about 3,100 tree failure incidents in 2001, said the statutory board.
Tree incidents refer to the structural deterioration or breakage of any part of a tree, including the roots, trunk or canopy branches.
Dr Leong Chee Chiew, NParks' commissioner of parks and recreation, added in a media statement that the trees in Marsiling Park have been checked as a precautionary measure on Thursday, and the park remains open and safe for the public to visit.
"We are sad that there was one fatality. Our priority now is to accord assistance to the family of the deceased," Leong said in the media statement.
Trees inspected once every 6 to 24 months: NParks
NParks said that the 20m-tall tree that feel at Marsiling Park is known as Araucaria excelsa, or Norfolk Island pine. It was 20 years old, and had a girth of 1.3 metres.
The statutory board added that the tree was last inspected in April 2020 and was found to be healthy. It was due for the next inspection in October this year.
Leong said that trees are generally inspected once every six to 24 months, with higher frequency depending on the trees' age and locality. The trees are regularly pruned to improve their structure and balance.
Inspections are stepped up during periods of bad weather conditions, in order to reduce the risk of tree failure incidents. As an added precaution, NParks has introduced advanced inspections on trees more than 4 metres in girth since November 2016.
In 2012, NParks implemented crown reduction on mature trees to manage the overall height of the trees and reduce wind resistance of the entire canopy, before the onset of periods of adverse weather conditions. It also carries out mulching – applying a layer of organic material to improve soil fertility – to supplement the regular application of fertilisers.
Leong said in the media statement that many of NParks' inspectors are certified arborists, and are trained to examine trees in a rigorous and systematic manner, by assessing their overall form, roots, trunks, branches and crown.
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