The Malta Independent 17 October 2019, Thursday

TMID Editorial: Importing mature trees - How about saving the ones we have, too?

Wednesday, 18 September 2019, 08:55 Last update: about 28 days ago

The government, presumably reacting to the public outcry surrounding the uprooting and destruction of trees, is close to reaching an agreement to start importing and planting mature trees.

This is a very positive step, considering that one of the main criticisms levelled against this administration is that it cannot get away with destroying decade-old trees and replacing them with young saplings that will take decades to reach the same size and provide the same level of oxygen and shade.

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A good example of this is what happened at Paola's main square, where several mature trees that provided shade were chopped up and replaced by saplings, leaving the entire area at the mercy of the cruel Maltese summer sun.

Mature trees were removed from several other places around the island, including Castille Square and Marsamxett Road in Valletta and, of course, Santa Lucija.

It has been argued that most of these trees will be transplanted elsewhere, but photos that have done the rounds on social media do not inspire much confidence in this process.

And, as this newsroom has reported, the proper procedures for tree transplantation, as laid down by the Environment and Resources Authority are not being followed. In fact, it has transpired that the trees are being too heavily pruned, and the uprooting and transplanting is taking place at the wrong time of the year.

Yes, the importation of mature trees is a good step, but there are issues nonetheless. First of all, just because we will soon start importing fully grown trees does not mean that we should, in the meantime, destroy the few remaining ones we have. Technologies exist for the proper removal of trees - with roots and all - so that they can be replanted elsewhere without the need to shear them down to just the trunk. It seems strange that such technology has not yet reached a country as advanced as ours.

What we should be doing is increasing the number of trees we have, not just replacing the ones we are destroying.

The government will argue that this is, in fact, being done. Environment Minister Jose Herrera said yesterday that some 45,000 trees will have been planted by the end of this year. This follows the planting of some 15,000 trees last year and another 8,000 the year before that.

But environmentalists have often pointed out that these newly planted trees are often left neglected, often without an irrigation system, and quickly die out.

Another issue that has been raised is the fact that, due to major infrastructural projects, trees are being moved away from urban areas, where they are most needed, and moved to less inhabited zones.

It has been argued, for example, that the trees that were uprooted at Luqa Road, Santa Lucija, could have easily been replanted a few metres in, on the newly realigned pavement.

But the planners instead opted for the much favoured barren landscape look.

It seems that different arms of the same government are not working in synch. One branch seems to be intent on tarmacking and concreting over every remaining green area, while the other is chasing behind running a damage control exercise.

They should be working together, seeing how to save as many existing trees as possible and incorporating them into infrastructure projects, while at the same making other areas greener. 


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