Johannesburg to lose 72 trees to BRT

2010-10-25 10:11

Johannesburg - More than 70 trees will be cut down on Empire Road on Monday to make way for Johannesburg's bus rapid transit (BRT) service.

Residents of Parktown and members of the Parktown and Westcliff Heritage Trust tied black paper ribbons around trees to raise awareness about the area's rich heritage on Sunday, hours before the trees were to be felled.

The 72 trees in Empire Road, between Joubert and Jan Smuts Avenue, have been marked with white and red paint for the last few days, to show workers which ones to cut down.

"We need the Rea Vaya (rapid bus service), but people have to remember we need these trees (just) as much for oxygen," said Fiona Wallice, 53, former head of The Holy Family College in Parktown.

She was one of the people to tying black ribbons around the trees.

"The trees are part of the beauty of nature. Now everything is lost. It is all of our heritage," said Wallice.

Narrow pavement

Her son, Duncan Lewis, 15, helped her to tie the ribbons around the trees. The trees are near five schools - Helpmekaar High School, The National School for the Arts, the Rand Girls School, Parktown High School and Parktown Primary.

"Do you realise that schoolchildren will only have three blocks of concrete to use as a pavement?" warned Flo Bird, 67, a heritage trust activist.

"It is only to make the roads wider. If children begin to push one another playfully, one of them will end up being pushed in front of those buses.

"We know the black ribbons will stop no one from cutting down the trees (on Monday), but it will make people aware of how their heritage is being lost unless they start doing something about it," said Bird.

She wants the city council to replant indigenous trees after the construction work.

Johannesburg City Parks spokesperson Jenna Moodley said the onus was on companies like Rea Vaya to see to it that roads and the environment were restored to their previous glory after construction.