#Thailand – NAN’S famous tree tunnel was damaged as people do not understand its value, an academic stated while emphasizing that in order to save the country’s beautiful tree tunnels people have to appreciate their worth and protect them.
Trees along the 800-metre-long Pha Sing tree tunnel on Highway 1080 from Nan to Chloem Phra Kiat had their crowns cut off during a highway extension, leaving the once beautiful tree tunnel without its unique silvan shade and leading to tree deaths since April last year. As a result it is feared the tree tunnel may cause road accidents if branches fall on the road.
On a field visit to the urban forest at Nan, Pracha Koonnathamdee, a lecturer at the Faculty of Economics at Thammasart University, said even though the Pha Sing tree tunnel had survived the highway extension, it had been defaced.
Pracha stated that the motive was the financial benefits the related agencies received while there was a lack of awareness of the real value of the tree tunnel.
“As we can see, despite an agreement being reached to save a small portion of the tree tunnel by constructing a new parallel road so the highway department could expand the highway without harming the existed tree tunnel, in the end the summer storm last year gave the final push and provided a good reason to cite road safety for those who want to cut the trees,” he said.
He explained that it was normal for authorities being uninterested in saving the trees, as in many other countries, because they could get a budget for expansion and the timber could be sold.
Nan mayor Surapol Teinsoot explained that the tree tunnel needed to be saved for transporters, as the road at the tree tunnel was an accident black spot.
“Everyone agreed to save this tree tunnel because it is beautiful and can be the tourist spot of Nan. However, we have to ensure road safety too and it is the duty of Highways Department to make the road safer,” Surapol said.
He stated that the road was an international highway running from China down to Laos, Thailand and Myanmar, so the road expansion was necessary to make transportation more convenient and to boost Thailand’s economy.
“I think conservation and road safety can coexist and most of the trees in this tree tunnel are still alive and can regrow their tree crowns soon,” he added.
However, Pracha insisted that if the people still did not see the value of tree tunnels, similar incidents would continue to happen.
“We can see in many cases from many countries that if the trees are sacred or the people understand the true value of the trees, they will be dearly protected. For instance, |the trees at the Imperial Palace in Tokyo are well preserved, as each tree represents one Japanese soldier who died during World War II,” he said.
“However, raising the people’s awareness of the true value of the trees is hard work and it will take time to get people to realize the trees provide them many benefits such as clean air, a good environment and so on.”