Thank you to ‘Fever’ for taking up destruction of trees issue

2017-05-11 06:00

I WOULD like to thank Omega Moagi and the South Coast Fever for taking up the serious issue of the destruction of our trees by the municipality and other state departments.

Thanks are also due to Jurgen Kliem for raising this issue, and to Morgan Griffiths, environmental governance programme manager for WESSA.

The magnificent, age-old indigenous fig trees (Ficus Natalensis) and other plants that have been hacked down near the entrance road to the Port Shepstone police station and courts were the only visually redeeming elements in an area that has degenerated into a repellent third world slum.

These trees had provided enormous character and shade. They were monuments of their kind. They have massive root systems but I have seen no signs of damage to nearby structures.

In any case, if this had been a concern, there are ways to solve the problem short of destroying the trees. These superior methods would also have been less expensive and destructive.

As usual, ignorance and incompetence has ruled the day. The aesthetically illiterate have had their ugly way.

As Klien and Griffiths have pointed out, trees such as these are the very essence of the unique ambience of the South Coast that distinguishes it from most parts of the denuded, over-commercialised north coast that are hardly much different in appearance from parts of Johannesburg. Tourists from other parts of South Africa and from other countries are attracted by our sub-tropical vegetation, indigenous and exotic.

People stop to take photographs of trees such as those that have just been destroyed. A photograph taken in that area now would be no more than a depiction of a hideous third world slum.

I know of a party of thirty international tourists who visited this area to see the iLala palm (Hyphaene Coriacea) and wild date (Phoenix Reclinata) in habitat.

Additionally, as Griffiths points out, not only do trees such as these give the south coast its character. They are havens for wildlife. When we destroy a tree, we destroy part of the habitat of this dwindling wildlife which is also a characteristic part of the south coast ambience. Many on-invasive alien trees also support wildlife and also add to the attraction of this coast.

As for the fear of some that trees and shrubs provide hiding places for vagrants and criminals, I doubt this was the case outside the police station. In any event, to destroy plants ostensibly to keep criminals at bay, if taken to its logical conclusion, would denude the coastal strip of its unique ambience. To a significant degree, this is happening.

The areas cleared become weed-infested eyesores until, eventually, the vegetation rehabilitates itself only to be destroyed once again when someone has the energy.

The ugly results can be seen along Commercial Road, Umtentweni, among so many other places.

Steven van Staden

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