CityNews Article Archive:
Falling Branch Kills Worker at McKean – although environmentalist feels life needn’t have been lost

September 4, 2012

CityNews – When environmentalist Ricky Ward visited McKean Rehabilitation Center – the large centre on the left bank of the Ping River a few kilometres south of Chiang Mai City, he heard the news from staff that a worker had been killed by a falling branch on September 4th.

Walkway at McKean

Ricky told CityNews that, “The purpose of the visit was to provide advice about tree planting to the McKean Community on behalf of Gum Hak Doi Suthep,” but when he arrived he heard the disturbing news that a worker had been walking along the pretty tree lined street beside the river when a branch fell from the top of a tree and killed him.

He explained, “At the scene of the accident the offending branch, no more than about 15 centimetres in diameter, had been cut in pieces and laid beside the road, the light colour of the newly broken wood conspicuous amongst the debris. High in the tree above the spot where the limb had broken off was also clearly visible.”

He added that it was likely the worker had been riding a motor cycle when the branch fell.

“The old tree from which the branch fell is common in the forest of Chiang Mai and goes by the scientific name of  Microcos paniculata  ? – MaGom is one of its names in Thai,” Ricky explained, adding that, “This specimen shows the scars of a long life but appears to be in good health. The branch that fell broke off from a fork and the piece on the ground showed signs of insect and water damage.”

This incident Ricky says should remind us of the importance of careful and professional care of the trees. The rough hacking-off of tree branches and especially the lopping, or pollarding of the main trunk of trees which is so common in Chiang Mai leads to insect and fungal attack, and increases the likelihood of the new branches which grow from the stump breaking off in a storm and hurting people.

Pollarding of trees

“For some years Chiang Mai had the benefit of an expert arborist from California living in the city and he tried to interest the authorities in developing a professional approach to the care of our trees and especially the big old trees such as along the Lamphun Road,” Ricky told CityNews, but lamented that this expert was ignored and many of our old trees are unhealthy and pose a danger to the public.

“So often in our society some unfortunate incident happens, for example a night club fire, or a forest is burnt, a big fuss is made but no consistent action results and so the story is repeated,” Ricky says, though hopefully he added, “Perhaps this time will be different because of where the tragedy occurred. The McKean Rehabilitation Center was established over one hundred years ago by Christian missionaries who saw the suffering of lepers rejected by society and gave them refuge and loving care, and in time the stigma and scourge of leprosy has gone from Thai society. These folk long ago showed that positive change can be made in a conservative society. Their successors still work at mending the lives of people who have suffered injury. Let us use their example by campaigning to bring professional care for our trees and a safer environment for all.”