Concern at delayed replacement of felled city trees

2015-08-21 10:23
One of the felled trees in Hoosen Haffejee Street that has not been replaced.

One of the felled trees in Hoosen Haffejee Street that has not been replaced. (Ian Carbutt)

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COUNCIL has no funds at present to replace the trees it is chopping down in the Pietermaritzburg city centre.

This, as the chief horticulturist at the KZN National Botanical Garden said yesterday that the CBD is becoming “barren”.

Bathabile Ndlovu said in a statement to The Witness that she is concerned that exotic trees that are being removed, are not being replaced with suitable indigenous trees.

She said the trees, planted over 100 years ago, “carry immense historical value and are a critical element for a complete road [infrastructure] system”.

Ndlovu said a “properly planned designed native tree avenue” along a roadside has been proven to slow absorption of and cleanse water that runs off roads into drains, reducing soil erosion and promoting flood control and a cleaner water supply.

“My recent observations raised concerns that our lovely City of Choice is slowly losing trees on the roadsides … the impact could be attributed to a lack of knowledge or poor planning. If so, how we could mitigate current effects so that people entrusted with our local environmental needs highlight their importance, that the trees provide pollinator habitats to adjacent fields and reduce roadside maintenance supporting trail construction and tourism?

“Leaves on trees capture more than 50% particulate matter that is a component of urban pollution which triggers disease. These particulates come from exhausts, brakepad wear and tear and road dust, and contain metal, iron and lead. Exposure to these pollutants results in inflammatory illnesses …”

She said the trees are often very old, resulting in many being uprooted because of factors like disease, which weaken them. “They then fall or break posing a danger, which results in them being chopped down.

Most of the trees are exotic and possess a robust growth pattern in which their root systems are strong enough to break paving and squeeze underground sewerage pipes causing damage to infrastructure.”

She said chopping the trees down might be a permanent solution but not an effective one “if we take into consideration that trees are a habitat to many animal species and support other plants harbouring many micro-organisms.

“… Chopping them down without a substitute is not respecting nature. The best recommendation would be to have eradication plans that will also include a rehabilitation plan.”

She suggested that all exotic trees be phased out and indigenous trees introduced, planted in each spot an exotic tree is removed. “Prior removal, there should be an indigenous tree already growing.”

Acting municipal spokesperson at Msunduzi Municipality Nqobile Madonda said: “Council does not have the funds to replace trees at present but has embarked on a beautification project to improve the aesthetics of the city.

“Once trees are removed there is a process before it is replaced. The stump has to be removed and the roots have to be poisoned. A replacement plan has been approved by the community services portfolio committee,” said Madonda. — Witness Reporter.

Read more on:    pietermaritzburg  |  environment  |  trees

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