20140525 Fallen trees and branches – should victims take action against JTC/NParks/government agencies?

A woman was seriously injured when a 4-metre long branch fell from a 10-storey tall tree on 23 May along Bendemeer Road. She was reportedly pregnant and was warded at the Tan Tock Seng ICU. The tree belongs to JTC.

Photo credit: http://news.asiaone.com/news/singapore/woman-pinned-under-4m-long-tree

On 12 May, another tree had fallen and crushed the front of a trailer along Outram Road.

Photo credit: Stomp

NParks is mainly responsible for most of the trees in Singapore. NParks says that trees under its charge are manitained in a healthy and stable condition. Since 2004, there have been 1,300 cases of fallen trees and branches annually.

While it is impossible to prevent trees from falling such as when they are struck by lightning, we also know that it is an impossible task to maintain more than a million trees in a healthy condition. The maintenance cost easily amounts to tens of millions of tax dollars ie planting, replanting, clearing of leaves, pruning, inspections, etc. With a large number of trees falling, the cost has also increased.

Trees pruned until they are almost botak. Tens of millions in tax dollars spent on clearing leaves.

Besides the financial costs, there are also intangible ones like traffic jams, deaths and injuries. (below)

Photo credit: ST
Must we continue to insist on having so much greenery in the face of severe climate change?

NParks claims that it inspects all trees along “major roads or areas with high human traffic”. Unless it reveals more details of its inspection regime such as the number of inspectors and the process of inspection, nobody knows for certain that all the trees have been inspected. NParks cannot expect the public to simply take its word at face value.

It has come to my observation that some of the trees (smaller ones) have been planted and left alone since day one. This is confirmed by derelict/abandoned bicycles being chained to the trees for YEARS. The absence of a proper maintenance regime should not be acceptable.

There are too many similar cases to be a coincident. It’s about time NParks improve its inspection regime. It appears NParks has been throwing tax dollars at irresponsible contractors. Singapore is too small for any contractor to have been missing these for YEARS.

A lightning strike on a healthy tree may qualify as an act of god but it is obvious there WILL be cases of negligence. NParks is not perfect. No one is.

NParks has always relied on the ‘act of God’ defence and has never been successfully sued. It’s about time to take this guarantee away from NParks or it will never improve. Did God damage all these cars? How certain are we?

Photo credit: TNP

Photo credit: The Star

Image taken from link

In the JTC incident, it also claims the tree had been inspected recently in January. Question is how are inspections carried out on a 10-storey tall tree? It is not possible to inspect all the branches of such a tall tree. As with all other cases, it appears inspections had been carried out but they still resulted in injuries/deaths. During the past decade, falling trees and branches have killed 4 people and injured more than 60.

Statistically, it is impossible for all the cases of damaged vehicles, deaths and injuries to be unrelated to negligence. Affected drivers/families should challenge NParks/statutory boards/owners of the trees by hiring a certified and experienced arborist to determine if the tree had been in a healthy state before it/branches fell. This will go a long way to improve inspection regime and perhaps the authorities should consider reducing the number of trees to reduce unnecessary deaths/injuries/damages.

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