Crying Trees: In Memory of the Trees on Hsin-Yi Road, Taipei

What is it that lends Tun-Hua North and South Roads, Jen-Ai Road and Yang-De Boulevard their noble beauty? And what makes the real estate along those stretches the priciest in Taipei? Why, it’s that they are blessed with those beautiful big trees, which provide the locals with infinite amounts of prestige and self-esteem.

Greenery is the soul of the urban landscape. Yet, since Daan Forest Park was set up after the first election for mayor of Taipei in 1994, aside from the scattering of little parks in the city there has been absolutely no thought given to increasing the area of greenery in Taipei, and thereby adding some visual pleasure to the stressful lives of the city-dwellers.

 

It has been several years since the MRT on Chong-Hsiao East Road and Roosevelt Road was completed, and there is still no sign of the trees that were supposed to be planted along the two main lines there. Yet Taipei City Government has struck again, ordering the execution of the trees along the pavement of Hsin-Yi Road. Starting last year with Hsin-Sheng South Road, Yung-Kang Street and Jing Shan South Road, and up to the recent operation on the National Taiwan Normal University Senior High School section of Hsin-Yi Road, all the trees have been transplanted from the pavements, and thereby effectively condemned to death. Our hearts go out to the souls of all those trees, which numbered more than 1800.

The trees that line our pavements serve to enhance the environment, purify the air and reduce noise pollution – all those precious comforts that Taipei City folk hanker after so desperately. Yet Taipei City Government has chosen not to recognize this and, without considering whether or not it was actually necessary to move every single tree, or how to minimize the harm caused in the process, has carelessly transplanted these fine old trees to Shanchuku landfill, to be buried in trash. In the years and years it has taken to cultivate such magnificent leafy avenues, these weathered trees have born witness to the passing of history, and are closely connected both with the development of our society and with our daily lives. The stories behind their planting, and the uniqueness of those areas, are a valuable part of the local culture. Their brutal removal by the City Government has been heartbreaking to the locals.

It’s hard to imagine how a city such as Taipei, which is supposed to be a great international metropolis, could be so pitifully lacking in ambience, with its cement backdrop, its network of building sites and the few weedy little trees poking out here and there in a pathetic attempt at embellishment. With the Kyoto Protocol coming into effect in February next year, the countries that signed the agreement are all making an intensified effort to reduce carbon dioxide emissions, for example by expanding their respective areas of greenery. Can Major Ma Ying-jeou please explain how chopping down trees constitutes compliance with the Kyoto Protocol…? Particularly at a time when he’s trying to turn Taipei into an international city, shouldn’t he be making all the more effort to make it more nature-friendly?


As we remember the souls of these innocent trees, we request that Taipei City Government:

1) Reevaluate the necessity and appropriateness of its policy of transplanting trees.
2) Provide those trees for which there is no alternative to being transplanted with a pleasant environment in which to survive, and follow up the transplant operation with the appropriate observation and care.
3) Conform to the principles of international green city development by actively applying a policy of tree-planting throughout the city and setting goals for the year-by-year reduction of CO2 emissions, as well as actively adhering to the principles of biodiversity and thereby turning Taipei into a model ‘eco-friendly’ city.

Wild at Heart Legal Defense Association
2004/12/28

For more information contact Christina MacFarquhar at chrismac@wildatheart.org.tw.