GEORGE TOWN, May 22 — Authorities here have identified 131 large trees along several busy major roads on the island as at “high risk” of toppling, said state exco Jason H’ng Mooi Lye.

However, he said the trees will not be felled before further risk assessments were done.

The local government and town and county planning committee chairman said equipment such as PiCUS Sonic Tomograph and Resistograph will be used to accurately gauge the level of internal decay and stability of the trees.

“If the level of internal decay is more than 70 to 80 per cent, we have no choice but to chop down the tree for public safety,” H’ng said.

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“But after chopping down the tree, we will plant another tree in replacement, although not necessarily at the same spot,” he said.

He stressed that any decision to fell must be approved by the One Stop Centre (OSC) committee at the Penang Island City Council (MBPP), meaning that no trees would be cut down arbitrarily and without going through the proper procedures.

Each of the 131 trees will be individually assessed by the appointed contractor, who are professional arborists and will also suggest alternatives.

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Among the mitigation steps that could be taken include treating trees found to be unhealthy but can still be saved, pruning of the branches to reduce the load on the roots and trunks, and reducing the height of the trees.

It is only when the assessment for the trees came up with high internal decay and it was deemed as unsafe would the tree be marked for removal.

“The contractor has conducted risk assessments for trees along the five major roads; Macalister Road, Jalan Utama, Burmah Road, Kelawei Road and Perak Road,” he said.

So far, a total 561 out of the 1,195 trees along the five major roads have been assessed and assessments on the remaining trees will be completed by next month, he said.

The 131 high risk trees detected were among the 561 trees along the five roads.

H’ng said that yesterday, the MBPP OSC approved the decision to remove about 30 trees in various locations on the island due to various reasons including public safety.

Over on the mainland, a total 23 trees have been identified for removal where eight have been chopped while the remaining 15 will be felled.

There are an estimated 40,000 trees on the island under the management of MBPP.

He said MBPP has a Penang Tree Inventory System that contained all data of the trees including the species, location, size, its condition and maintenance records.

Based on the data, there are a total 15,848 trees by the roadside and in open spaces with a circumference of 0.8mm and above.

“There are also 314 large trees that are over 90 years old on the island and the internal decay of these trees will be assessed for the safety of the people,” he said.

In Seberang Perai, there are about 115,706 trees under the jurisdiction of Seberang Perai City Council.

“MBSP has assessed and tagged a total 96,586 trees,” he said.

He said both city councils are committed to identify high risk trees and take mitigation measures such as treating the trees or removing them if the trees could not be saved.

“I have also instructed them to increase the frequency of checking the condition of trees under their respective districts, especially the aged and high risk trees,” he said.