Measures in place to clear fallen trees: NParks

Straits Times Forum 4 Jul 13;

WE THANK Mr Ravi Govindan for his feedback ("Set up response team to deal with fallen trees"; June 20).

We have rapid response teams on motorcycles to deal with fallen trees or branches resulting from stormy weather. They are on standby with chainsaws to clear such obstructions on public roads quickly.

In the interest of public safety, we also respond to calls on our 24-hour helpline 1800-471-7300 even if the affected trees are managed by other agencies.

In instances where there are traffic accidents or injured people, other agencies such as the Singapore Civil Defence Force will be roped in to conduct rescue operations and provide medical aid.

During the intense storm on June 1, when a tree fell in the Sembawang Park area, our response team was dispatched immediately and arrived within half an hour of notification.

Fortunately, no one was trapped or injured.

Heavy load-bearing vehicles had to be deployed because of the unusually huge tree.

The road was completely cleared for traffic four hours later.

Within the park, our priority was to clear fallen trees and branches from public footpaths to ensure park users' safety.

As for the damaged park bench, we have since replaced it.

Oh Cheow Sheng
Director, Streetscape
National Parks Board

Set up response team to deal with fallen trees
Straits Times Forum 20 Jun 13;

ABOUT 20 trees in Sembawang Park were damaged and uprooted after a storm earlier this month. One tree fell on a cab, trapping the occupants and blocking the main access road to my estate.

No one was hurt, and the police and Singapore Civil Defence Force arrived fairly quickly but were both not equipped to solve the problem swiftly and efficiently.

It took half an hour to extricate the trapped people, some eight hours to remove the tree from the road and over a week to clear the damaged trees.

Now, almost three weeks on, damage to facilities such as park benches has still not been fixed.

It should not take this long to restore the park to its normal condition.

Police and SCDF resources should not be used to solve the problem because that is not their job but the National Parks Board's (NParks).

While NParks has done well in crafting a neat and beautiful Garden City, it has left untended the establishment of a quick and efficient process to reduce public inconvenience when trees cause damage and disrupt traffic and park life. This ranges from the actual work of making roads passable once more to proactively informing the public, who may be caught unawares.

For example, commuters did not know that the fallen tree had disrupted the bus service and were waiting at a bus stop down the road. I had to stop my car to inform them of the disruption.

According to NParks, more than one million trees have been planted in the 50 years since the national exercise began, that is, one tree to four residents. Each year, some 50,000 to 60,000 trees are planted.

Given the figures, NParks should establish its own emergency response team and set up a hotline that the public can call. This would ensure that the public does not have to rely on arbitrary help when problems arise.

Ravi Govindan