The country is at war.
Only this time we are not fighting the Germans, the French or the Turks. This time, the enemies are our few precious trees.
Everywhere you look, trees are getting the chop. In some cases, the uprooting of trees may be justified, but in many cases it is not. This administration is sacrificing the last remaining green areas at the altar of progress. It wants us to believe that there is simply no alternative.
You cannot complain about traffic congestion and then oppose every form of infrastructure development, we are often told. But then again, not all tree-chopping exercises are related to traffic projects.
Every single pjazza that has been “embellished” recently was shorn of all form of vegetation and, in some cases, young saplings were planted instead. These include Paola square, which today is devoid of any form of shade.
Earlier this week a number of mature trees were chopped off at Marsamxett. Several olive trees were savagely pruned at the Santa Lucija jogging track a few days back, and trees located in the main roundabout leading down to Marsa have also been marked for the chop.
We are not exactly sure why this is happening but it was symptomatic of what is happening all around the country. It seems that the people taking these decisions are fonder of concrete and stone than they are of trees and soil.
We cannot understand why – in a country as hot and polluted as ours – we keep destroying that which gives us shade and oxygen. We are told that there is no other way – that trees have to be sacrificed in order for the country to develop, but other countries have shown us how that nature and progress can co-exist peacefully.
Also, the argument that uprooted mature trees are being replaced with a larger number of saplings does not hold water. For a start, saplings take decades to grow into mature trees. Secondly, most of the so-called forestation projects are taking place well away from the places where we live and spend most of our time. While planting trees on Comino is not a bad thing, how is it of benefit for people living in Marsa, or Paola?
Another excuse that has been made is that many of the trees that are being removed from all around the island are ‘alien’ species, not endemic. But the truth is that we have come to a point where it should make any difference to us if the tree being chopped next is endemic or alien – they are all trees, all giving out the same benefits. In view of the ever decreasing number of trees, all of them should be protected.
Unfortunately, the entities that were set up with the purpose of protecting the environment are failing miserably at their job. Yes, the Environment and Resources Authority is appealing the Dwejra decision and had opposed plans for a new fuel station in Attard. But then, its chairman voted in favour of Central Link, which will eat up some 50,000 square metres of agricultural land and hundreds of trees.
In the wake of this environmental destruction, several environmental activist groups have been set up and, slowly but surely, they are raising awareness about this madness. These groups are still in their infancy and have few members between them, but they are much louder than the Opposition, which is currently fighting internal battles and letting everything else slide.
Without an effective Opposition, the government is steamrolling over our environment, literally.
The people’s concerns are being ignored while the contractors keep fattening their pockets.
Like the saying goes, when all the trees are gone we will realize that you cannot eat money.
The problem is that, when that time comes, all of us will suffer for it, not only those who are taking these ridiculous decisions or receiving work contracts.
Original article found on The Malta Independent