Basseterre, St. Kitts, August 25, 2022 (SKNIS): Trees are an important part of survival and provide numerous benefits such as oxygen and improving air quality. It is for these reasons and more why that St. Kitts Electricity Company Limited (SKELEC) engages in dialogue to explain the importance of trees to the environment before removing them. However, trees should be managed so that they do not pose significant risks or cause damage to life and property, especially in disasters such as hurricanes.
This was according to Collin Browne, SKELEC’s Control, Operations and Protection Manager, during his August 24 appearance on Working for You. Mr. Brown was responding to a complaint lodged by a caller who indicated that there are trees in his community that pose a threat and should be removed to minimize risk to lives and livelihoods.
Mr. Brown acknowledged that trees “represent a risk or hazard” to every overhead infrastructure and when “trees do fall on lines and on poles it will cause some degree of damage.” He noted that it is something that SKELEC mitigates against, manages and is aware of. However, he said not every tree deserves to be uprooted.
“It is not every tree that poses some hazard to our infrastructure, that in every instance we will choose to cut down or at least cut down at the moment if it is reported. We need trees for beautification, community involvement, to mitigate greenhouse gases and I am not minimizing the risk or hazard. However, I will ask all customers to be mindful that where a fruit or decorative tree is on private property, it is the responsibility of that property owner to manage their trees in a way that they do not cause a risk to the utility,” he said. “In an instance where a particular tree is an imminent risk, meaning the branches are already on the lines and impacting customers, we will have to address it in order to continue to provide or restore service to the customer.”
Mr. Brown added that SKELEC will not rush to cut down a tree based on speculation that it will fall. He said that the proper team will be dispatched to the site to observe the situation and dialogue with relevant stakeholders before making the decision to remove it.
“It is not every tree in every instance that we could speculate if it falls, it will fall, that we will cut down proactively. We live in a community and the utilities infrastructure and services being part of the community mean that our environs are part of that community, so it often becomes a balancing act of managing risk,” he said. “We are mindful at SKELEC that we try to balance our aggressiveness with pruning and cutting down trees with the impact on the community and in the environment.”
SKELEC’s Control, Operations and Protection Manager said that while the primary focus is on pruning and tree cutting, great focus is also placed on the protection of the electrical distribution infrastructure. This, he said, is done in collaboration with the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA).
“In coordination with NEMA, both The Cable and SKELEC also participate in general pruning for the security of roadways and people’s homes. In the preparatory period for the 2022 Atlantic Hurricane Season, Cable and SKELEC would have partnered with NEMA to prune trees in various areas; some are hazardous to our lives but some are not directly hazardous to our infrastructure but putting people’s lives and homes at risk. So that as well is undertaken,” he said.
Mr. Browne appealed to the general public to reach out to SKELEC or The Cable for clarity when it comes to the overgrowth of trees that may be hazardous to lives and livelihoods and don’t attempt to tamper with utility poles and cables.