The Malta Independent 27 July 2017, Thursday

TMID Editorial: Environment - Chopping down trees to make space for concrete

Monday, 17 July 2017, 12:40 Last update: about 9 days ago

Barbaric. Anarchy. Concrete jungle. These are a few of the adjectives used by our readers in reaction to a story we ran on Saturday, on the destruction of Holm Oak trees (tal-Ballut) in Lija.

The trees were mowed down so that the road can be widened. One reader aptly pointed out that Transport Malta should have seen how to reduce the number of cars on the roads, rather than destroy trees to make way for more cars.

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The road in question has three lanes – two northbound and one southbound – but it is a major bottleneck and it is situated right next to a busy roundabout. But the fact remains that the chopping down of trees, no matter how old and rare they are, to make way for roadworks, construction or just to ‘open up the view’ (like what happened in a number of village squares) is just terrible.

A spokesperson for the Environment and Resources Authority told this newspaper that the Ballut tree forms part of the list of trees that are protected in “selected areas” as well as in “protected areas and ODZ land. Indeed, our environmental laws state that trees that are more than 50 years old are protected in protected areas, ODZ and Urban Conservation Areas (UCA). 

So a 150-year-old Ballut tree is protected if it is in ODZ or UCA areas, but there is no problem with chopping one down if it falls within the development zone. This kind of reasoning just beggars belief.

In a country with a serious lack of trees and greenery, where new buildings are sprouting up on every corner of every street, and where huge high-rise towers have become the latest fashion, we are failing to protect the few trees that we have. Not only that, but we are chopping down our trees to make way for more roads and more flats. Concrete jungle indeed.

And this excuse that new trees are being planted elsewhere to compensate for the ones that are being chopped to pieces is just plain silly. It makes no sense to remove every last green lung that exists within our polluted towns and villages and plant the same number of trees out of the village boundaries. Besides, the rule should be that for every old tree chopped down, one should have to plant another ten, fifty or even a hundred new trees. Developers should be made to pay a higher price for the destruction they are causing.

It is a complete disgrace that we continuously speak of building new roads (all of Malta’s roads, in fact) of mega building projects and even of land reclamation ventures, but never of improving our rural landscape.

Yes, there has been some talk of planned afforestation projects, and this plan, if it is ever put into effect, is commendable. But we also need, desperately, more green spaces within our localities, at least where this is physically possible.

Other countries managed to introduce huge parks and green spaces within heavily built up areas. They did this centuries ago. Granted, we do not have the space for a Grand Central Park or a Hyde Park, but instead of trying to go in that direction, we are doing the exact opposite and taking the trees as far away from us as possible, instead of leaving them where they are needed and adding some more. 

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