In a freak accident last month, a young girl died as a tree branch suddenly fell on her from a 17 feet height, while she was playing with her friends under the shade of about 150-year-old pine tree. The incident took place in Bagh-e-Jinnah, Lahore.
The park built in 1860s is now home to around 15 pine trees. The Parks and Horticulture Authority (PHA) has said that the accident was an unfortunate, unforeseen event and was not a result of negligence as the branch fell for some unexplained reason.
PHA Director, Akhtar Mahmood, says, “The incident took place even though the tree had been checked for insect damages three months ago”. He assures that the sight of the accident and the tree are being examined for causes of the accident and that other pine trees are being checked to ensure safety.
However, private horticulturists have expressed concerns that the branch might have fallen due to a pest infection which is quite common in old, neglected trees.
Hundreds of people visit Lahore’s parks on a daily basis to cool down under the large canopies of the city’s historic trees. Such accidents are a threat to the people’s safety and make for an uncertain environment. Solutions can only be implemented if the authorities concerned know why such accidents take place in the first place.
The incident might be a result of the “sudden branch drop syndrome”. This syndrome is also known as “summer branch drop” or “sudden limb failure”. During very hot and humid summer days, a healthy looking tree branch might suddenly snap and fall, especially if the tree is old. Experts are not sure why this happens but they do know that older trees are more prone to this syndrome in the unkind summers of Lahore.
An explanation for this might be high humidity in the tree’s canopy. This leads to surplus moisture that weakens the tree’s structure. Another cause might be related to more internal issues like bacterial wetwood, which must be vigilantly catered to by the use of regular pesticides on the tree trunk.
Falling branches are not only a lethal threat during strong winds of the monsoon, but also during calm summer days. Hence, the only viable solution to the problem is to constantly look out for fallen branches around the trees and pests on the tree trunks. Trimming the trees and getting rid of any snappy branches must also be made a regular practice in order to overcome the persistent threat.
Lahore, the city of gardens, is widely celebrated for its historic fauna. Pine trees have become an essential part of the landscape. From the first tree planted in the Lawrence Gardens during the British era, Lahore is now home to 1,500 pine trees.
These centuries-old evergreens have added to the city’s scenic beauty. They have also played a part in improving the environment. However, these old trees cannot stand on their own without external assistance. Horticulturists claim that older trees are accidents waiting to happen, for nothing lasts forever, especially when overlooked.
A cautious attitude and regular plant healthcare practices will prevent the ancient evergreens from turning into a constant threat to our lives. The trees must be cared for more than ever, now that they are growing old in a changing environment.