Ho Chi Minh City residents are illegally chopping down, poisoning and disfiguring trees across the metropolis in order to clear land in front of their homes, according to the city's Park and Tree Company.
Company director Tran Thien Ha said 'tree murder" was rampant across the city as people wanted to enlarge the area in front of their houses.
'They kill the trees by any means available, often stealthily," another official at the company, which overseas the management of trees in the city, said on condition of anonymity.
"They water the trees with boiling water, put a burning coal stove near the trees, or dig a hole under the tree into which they pour poisonous chemicals."
Ha said the chemicals were the worst way to kill the trees.
'We have to clear the dead soil completely before planting new trees," he said.
Whenever new houses are built near the street, any trees on the plot are poisoned or chopped down, the official said.
The city authorities then plant new trees in place of the old ones, but they meet a similar fate, he added.
Other residents who didn't chop down their trees were instead hammering nails into them to hang signs or electric wiring.
Many trees on No Trang Long, Dinh Tien Hoang and Phan Van Tri Streets have been harmed by the hanging of boards, wires and electrical outlets, even though it's illegal.
Many of the perpetrators claimed they didn't know it was illegal.
Hoang Thanh My, a construction inspector in Binh Thanh District, said he once caught a man hammering nails into the tree.
The man denied that the act was against the law, My said.
'He only believed me once I showed him the law in black and white."
According to a decision by the city People's Committee, people can be fined VND100,000-500,000 (US$6-17) for disfiguring or killing trees with chemicals.
The fine rises to between VND500,000-1 million for chopping down trees illegally.
Some precious trees such as the giang huong, or Burma Paduk (Pterocarpus macrocarpus), can no longer be found in the southern commercial hub.
The city's streets are currently peppered with around 72,000 trees.
Scientists at Nong Lam (Agriculture and Forestry) University are currently compiling a list of old and precious trees in need of protection.
The HCMC Department of Transport said it would offer protective measures after the list is published.
Ha said his company would also provide 'special care" to those listed.