What happens to all the fallen trees from Glenda?
Typhoon Glenda (International name Ramassun) barreled its way across Metro Manila and rendered thousands without power. Manila Electric Co. reported at least 2.3 million people still without electricity early Thursday morning. Reuters has pegged fatalities at 38 people.
The destruction left in its wake has left Metro Manila reeling — hundreds of establishments, including banks, restaurants, and other businesses have remained closed Thursday.
And if you’ve been following any social media platform in the last 36 hours, you surely could not have missed images of fallen trees. They have crushed cars, blocked roads, knocked out power lines, and fallen on homes. If you’re looking for a potent symbol of the damages of Typhoon Glenda, you don’t need to look any further than outside your window — oh wait, a tree is probably blocking that view as well.
It’s safe to say trees have caused A LOT of damage in this typhoon. With winds gusting over 185 kilometers per hour at its peak, Glenda uprooted, snapped, or otherwise simply lifted trees from their earthly connections. Take a look at some of these trees:
Typhoon Glenda: hundreds of trees knocked down and power outage! pic.twitter.com/Im0PDxMXF1
— Ej Ocampo (@ej_daily) July 16, 2014
— Kris Carillo (@TheKrisCarillo) July 16, 2014
— Alan Soon (@alansoon) July 17, 2014
— Agence France-Presse (@AFP) July 16, 2014
There are lots of trees down in central Manila, but otherwise the damage doesn’t look to bad here. pic.twitter.com/AsSTGm0shx
— Trefor Moss (@Trefor1) July 16, 2014
— Cristalle B. Henares (@cristallebelo) July 17, 2014
So what happens to these beautiful trees, some decades old, after they’ve fallen? If you can hear a chopping sound outside, then you probably already know — fallen trees usually don’t go back up, especially large ones.
“Old trees are a problem,” said Erjufel Dioniso, Administrative Head for the Department of Environmental Services, Makati City.
“We shred the fallen trees and branches, and we stock them in nurseries. We mix them with biodegradable waste, and they become fertilizers.”
Dionisio said that they have estimated over 90,000 trees total in Makati City (before Typhoon Glenda), and they’ve even required all the villages in the city to have a shredding facility for that purpose.
For a variety of reasons, logistical first and foremost, it makes a lot more sense for disaster recovery teams to simply chop-up a tree versus trying to put it back up. The time, money, equipment, and resources required to put a tree back in its place is so much greater than that needed to chop it down. City services are also stretched to the limit after natural calamities, and the priorities for trees in understandably low on the list. There’s also the condition of the tree that teams have to determine.
“We have tree specialists under the Parks and Greening Division that we consult to determine what to do with trees,” said Dionisio.
“Sometimes we have trees that we can earthball, but if we can’t do that or put the tree back up, then it’s shredded.”
When faced with no choice, clearing teams will have to cut a tree down to get roadways cleared as soon as possible — devising an operation to get trees back up and re-planted will need heavy equipment like cranes that local governments simply don’t have the resources to provide. After all, when an Acacia tree has flattened your car or home, you probably don’t much care what happens to it, do you?
This approach also means that each year, we end up with fewer trees in Metro Manila. There are tree planting initiatives done each year, but trees take a long time to mature, and those that are uprooted are usually decades old.