Let's Build a Green Smart Hong Kong - Friends of UNESCO HK e-Newsletter


Let's build a green smart Hong Kong


Every parent wants their children to be clever, but have you heard of a "clever leaf" ?


I grew up in Yuen Long. There were many old trees in the surrounding area. One of them was the Bauhinia tree (or Hong Kong Orchid Tree), next to my primary school. When I was at school, I was not too bad with my study. I did best in Science. However, my performance in Religious Studies was far from satisfactory as I was very reluctant to study by rote learning. However, a “clever leaf” changed me.


“Clever leaf” worked magic


When I was studying in primary four, the teacher of Religious Studies told us that the Bauhinia leaf was also called "clever leaf." She said if people used the leaf as bookmark and placed the book under a pillow, they would be smarter and got better grades. The Bauhinia tree next to the school was seen as the biggest and lushest in the area. There were fallen leaves all over the ground. So my classmates and I went to pick several pieces of them. Since then, I had formed a habit of using Bauhinia leaves as bookmarks.


Strangely, my performance results in the Religious Studies had really improved ever since. I did not know if this is directly related to bookmarks made of Bauhinia leaves. However, I thought about it thoroughly and realized: other than the use of knowledge, psychological quality is also important while taking examination. Those leaves made me feel peaceful and I believed they would bring me good luck, so I gained much more confidence in taking the examinations.

People often use cotton tree as a metaphor for strength and perseverance, but I just think of Bauhinia.


Low green area per capita in Hong Kong


We used to have close relationship with trees and the nature. But with the megatrend of urbanization, natural resources, such as water, clean air, and trees, are gradually depleted.


According to an earlier research by the Chinese University of Hong Kong, although country parks occupy 40% of Hong Kong's total area, green area per capita within the urbanized area is only 2 square meters, far less than Singapore's 10 square meters, and Tokyo's 7 square meters.


Trees can be our shelter for cooling - a lot of researches show that in the areas of densely built urban area, the cooling effect of greenery is prominent with temperature being reduced by two to three degrees. However, most of the trees in the urban areas of Hong Kong have grown in areas with shallow soil cover, making it difficult for them to have deeply rooted foundation. Therefore, fallen trees can be found everywhere after typhoons.


A lack of regulation and skill training


Last year, the Ombudsman published a survey report on the government's tree management, it made a lot of pertinent comments, in which the most important ones are regulation and skill training.


The report raised that there is no specific requirements of tree workers. These front-line inspectors are responsible for identifying problematic trees, assessing the risk of collapse, and taking daily care of the trees. However, the government only provide them with some basic training lasting for two days. No wonder the local tree management has been criticized for being deficient from time to time.


Tree management talent training overseas


Singapore and Japan have established a tree management talents training system. Singapore set up a training organisation in 2007 to provide horticultural and arboriculture training for landscape workers. At the same time, each scope of work in the horticultural industry has developed their industry standards and set the skills promotion ladder for each skill level. In early 2000, Japan has established local standards and qualifications systems for tree workers and arboriculturists in accordance with the international arboriculture standards, and provided different level of training.


The Ombudsman also mentioned the need for legislation on tree management, including establishing the standards for planting, trimming and removing trees. Singapore passed the Parks and Trees Act in 1975 and the Tokyo Government established the Green Tokyo Plan in 2006 to lay the legal foundation of tree management strategies and clearly define the responsibilities of different parties, so as to ensure the trees on the government and private lands are properly managed.


How technologies help


New technology is also applied. Examples are Singapore's mobile application using geographic information system (GIS) launched two years ago to facilitate front-line staff to extract information and real-time updates during inspection; 3D and mathematical models used to estimate the impact on trees under strong wind, and assess which branches need to be trimmed to minimise possible damage.


In recent years, the Mainland has also begun using new technology for tree management, especially for ancient trees. This year, the Department of Forestry of Zhejiang Province has introduced an information management system with each old and famous tree being assigned an electronic account. When you click on a town, the old and famous trees in that region will be shown on the map, then you can view each tree's location (latitude and longitude), tree species, age, planting soil type, growth status, tree's photo, and the responsible unit. The workers and staff of agriculture and forestry departments in the city, county, town and village, can locate the conserved trees in an electronic map to facilitate protection and management of them.


Local initiative


At the same time, a local community project called Tree Adoption Program (TAP) was recently launched by the Conservation E3 Foundation. Through an

online platform, the project promotes learning the knowledge on trees among young people.


Earlier this year, the Development Bureau set up an Urban Forestry Advisory Panel to promote a comprehensive greening of the city. I hope the Government can strike a balance among urban development needs, environmental protection and quality of living, and can follow the successful experience of our neighbouring countries, to actively and systematically nurture talents with the help of information technology, thereby, creating a green smart city for all of us.





Dr. Winnie Tang, Honorary Professor,

Department of Computer Science, The University of Hong Kong