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Every year before the onset of wet season, tree management departments will complete Tree Risk Assessments (TRAs) and implement appropriate risk mitigation measures to protect tree health and public safety. In recent years, the Government has launched several pilot schemes to explore the use of technology in tree management to enhance its quality and efficiency. Here we invited a colleague of the Greening, Landscape and Tree Management Section (GLTMS) of the Development Bureau (DEVB) to talk about tree inspections before wet season. We also invited Dr WONG Man-sing, Charles, Associate Professor of the Department of Land Surveying and Geo-Informatics of the Hong Kong Polytechnic University (PolyU), to introduce how to apply smart sensing technology to monitor tree stability.Risk assessments before wet seasonAccording to the “Guidelines on Tree Risk Assessment and Management Arrangement”, every year before the onset of wet season, tree management departments are required to complete TRAs in areas with high pedestrian and traffic flow professionally and systematically and implement appropriate risk mitigation measures based on the assessment results, such as crown pruning and installation of support systems. Dangerous trees with untreatable problems need to be removed as soon as possible to safeguard public safety. Mr TSANG Kwok-on, the GLTMS’s Tree Management Officer, said that tree inspection personnel mainly perform ground inspection to examine and assess various parts of a tree, including the crown, leaves, branches, trunk, roots and the surrounding environment of the tree, etc. Inspection personnel would also employ tools to aid their work, for example, using a plastic mallet to tap the trunk to assess its structural condition and using binoculars to observe the growing conditions of the higher branches and leaves. If necessary, inspection personnel would climb up the tree to inspect the hidden parts from different angles. If decay or other structural problems are found or suspected, they would use a resistograph or sonic tomograph (pictured) to examine the internal structural condition of the tree. Applying smart sensing technology in tree managementUnder adverse weather such as rainstorm or typhoon, it is inevitable that trees would suffer different degrees of damage. A research team formed by DEVB, the PolyU and other tertiary institutions is conducting a 3-year Jockey Club Smart City Tree Management Project to monitor tree stability on a large scale through smart sensing technology and Geographic Information System. The research team will assess the risk of tree failure by monitoring trees’ swaying or tilting condition, thereby strengthening tree risk management.Dr WONG Man-sing, Charles, Associate Professor of the Department of Land Surveying and Geo-Informatics of the PolyU, said that the sensors are installed at the lower trunks of the trees to assess the trees’ tilting angles and directions, and the data would then be sent to the university’s data centre via network transmission for big data analytics. If it is shown that the tilting angle of the lower trunk of the tree exceeds the threshold, the system would immediately send an alert to the designated parties to undertake timely and appropriate risk mitigation measures. Large-scale monitoring of tree stabilityDr WONG said that the Smart Sensing Technology pilot scheme started in February in 2019. An initial trial was conducted in Tai Tong, Yuen Long, to set reference for the design of sensors and monitoring system. Upon fine tuning the system, the research team has installed the second batch of sensors in Wan Chai and Kowloon East districts to test the network transmission performance in urban areas. The whole pilot scheme involves the installation of a total of 8 000 sensors on selected urban trees and all stonewall trees across Hong Kong Island and Kowloon, which will be completed in phases between the end of 2019 and early 2020. The trees are mainly located in areas with high pedestrian and traffic flow such as pavements, slopes and parks.Trees are very much intertwined with our daily lives. In an urbanised city like Hong Kong, trees let us have a green living environment. While we make our best endeavours to manage tree risks, we also need private property owners and property management companies to conduct proper tree care within their properties. (The video is broadcasted in Cantonese) (The video is provided by Development Bureau)
With growing concerns over tree management and maintenance in the society, the Government has recognised the need to nurture more talents with related knowledge and skills. The Development Bureau (DEVB) announced that the Study Sponsorship Scheme (the Scheme) under the Urban Forestry Support Fund (the Fund) is open for application to encourage more youngsters to join the arboriculture and horticulture industry, so as to build up the industry's strength and capability to keep our urban forest healthy, thereby protecting public safety. Here we have invited a youngster who has applied for the study sponsorship to share with us his experience in undertaking an arboriculture programme. Meanwhile, a colleague of the Greening, Landscape and Tree Management Section (GLTMS) of the DEVB and a lecturer of an educational institute will talk to us about the details of the Scheme and the training of arboriculture practitioners.Providing sponsorships for the training of arborists and tree workersThe Fund, launched by the DEVB this year, offers training for people who aspire to join the arboriculture and horticulture industry, so as to uplift the professional standards of the practitioners as a whole and thus to ensure tree management quality. Earlier, the Scheme under the Fund was open for application to sponsor the training of youngsters to become arborists and tree workers. Under the Scheme, study sponsorship will be offered to applicants who undertake and complete recognised arboriculture, tree management and tree work programmes at Level 2 to Level 5 of the Qualifications Framework (QF) offered by local vocational, tertiary and training institutions.Full of opportunities in the arboriculture industryMr LEUNG Yat-fat enrolled in the Certificate in Integrated Tree Climbing course offered by the Tree Climbing Hong Kong and spent about three months to complete the course. Techniques such as tree climbing and how to work safely on trees were taught in the course. He says that safety is the top priority in arboriculture training. Before attempting to climb trees, students will first practise on a wooden structure made of iron pipes and bamboo sticks. Tree climbing is a relatively high-intensity physical activity and muscles of the whole body are involved. Sometimes students may feel as if they are having a heat stroke when climbing under the boiling sun. However, as long as one follows the steps and has a strong will, one can adapt gradually.Mr LEUNG Yat-fat believes that the arboriculture and horticulture industry is full of opportunities. After Typhoon Mangkhut in 2018, the Government has injected more resources to facilitate the sustainable development of the industry, which means there will be more job and promotion opportunities. Upon assessment, he has obtained a recognised qualification at QF Level 3. In order to enrich himself with more arboriculture skills, he has seized the opportunity offered by the Scheme to enrol in the course of Certificate in Petrol Chainsaw Use and Maintenance and Tree Trimming , and will apply for study sponsorship. Benefitting around 300 students per cohortMr TSANG Kwok-on, a Tree Management Officer of the GLTMS, DEVB, says there is a manpower shortage in the arboriculture and horticulture industry and the shortage of arborists and tree workers is more serious. The DEVB estimated that there were around 2 300 arboriculture practitioners in Hong Kong as at 2015 and the Scheme will benefit around 300 students per cohort to help nurture adequate and quality practitioners to support local tree management and maintenance work.Subsidies attracting enrolment of young peopleLecturer of the Department of Applied Science of the Hong Kong Institute of Vocational Education (Shatin), Mr HO Ka-chai, Chris, welcomes the Scheme provided by the DEVB, which will attract more youngsters to enrol in related courses and join the industry. Apart from offering programme in the Higher Diploma in Conservation and Tree Management, the institute also provides part-time programmes for practitioners, covering various aspects such as tree work supervision, tree climbing, chainsaw training, etc., and offering 20 to 80 places each year. He encourages youngsters who are interested in arboriculture and horticulture to enrol in these programmes. In particular, arboriculture work involves operations in different environments and is suitable for youngsters who like challenges, natural environment and outdoor activities. Trainee Programme to train arborists and tree climbersFurthermore, the Trainee Programme under the Fund was open for application from employers earlier (10 August), with a view to encouraging employers to engage arboriculture and tree management graduates and offer them on-the-job training to acquire working experience, paving the way for qualified arborists and tree climbers in the future. The programme is expected to benefit around 100 related graduates each year.The arboriculture and horticulture industry in Hong Kong is young and evolving, which offers youngsters good opportunities for self-enhancement and career development. With the Fund mentioned above, we will continue to promote the healthy and sustainable development of the industry and uplift the professional standards of the practitioners, thereby keeping our urban forest healthy and promoting a more liveable environment. (The video is broadcasted in Cantonese) (The video is provided by Development Bureau)
Amongst different jobs in the arboriculture and horticulture industry, arborists and frontline tree workers, who are respectively responsible for tree inspection and various tree work, are the two most important and needed ones. The quality of our tree management work hinges on the service performance of these professionals. To encourage more people, especially youngsters, to join the industry as arborists and tree workers, the Study Sponsorship Scheme provides financial incentives, i.e. sponsorship and scholarship, to encourage eligible students and practitioners to undertake arboriculture, tree management and tree work programmes offered by local vocational, tertiary and training institutions. Under the scheme, study sponsorships will be offered to applicants who undertake and complete recognised arboriculture, tree management and tree works programmes at Qualifications Framework (QF) Level 2 to 5 offered by local vocational, tertiary and training institutions. The sponsorship amount is 50% of the tuition fee or $20,000, for arboriculture and tree management programmes, while for tree works programmes it is 70% of the tuition fee or $6,000. Scholarships will be offered to students who have attained at least 20 total grade points in the five best subjects in the Hong Kong Diploma of Secondary Education Examination and will undertake and complete recognised full-time arboriculture and tree management programmes at QF Level 5. The scholarship amount is the total tuition fee or $50,000, for each academic year of the programmes. Accepting applications throughout the year. Please visit the official website for application and notes.