Notwithstanding that 40% of Cyprus is covered with trees and bushes it has a long way to go in upgrading the environmental requirements.
To this end, the recent announcement by the Minister of Agriculture to plant more and more trees to help buffer climate change is a decision in the right direction.
How is this implemented, however?
It is a fact that people’s sensitivity is improving, and we note in particular that development projects have increased “private green areas” instead of using concrete/asphalt to cover the surface.
We put forward 10 years ago and at intervals since then, that any new development should include, in issuing building permits, that tree planting is to be obligatory.
Tree planting should be looked after by the developer/administrative committee for at least 3 years after the projects/ buildings completion (accompanied by a valid bank guarantee).
This is especially important when development takes place in wooded areas, where trees need to be cut down to accommodate the development.
For this event, we have suggested that at least the same number of cut down trees should be replaced, subject to availability of space +30%.
Tree planting should match the vegetation of the area where this is available.
Most tree planting is done nowadays within the three-metre boundary distance between neighbours.
Tree planting should be done with mature trees of at least 2-metre trunk height (for all areas).
The question now remains who is to make sure that the planting is done, the provision of watering and maintenance?
On average, it takes 2-3 years after completion of a building to secure the certificate of final approval and the title deeds.
So, before the issue of these, the local authority should either check if everything is in order or ensure the applicants or the supervising architect that the planting requirements and the tree maintenance are adhered to.
Sometimes trees which are not chosen properly, when they grow, destroy pavements, their branches protrude into the neighbour’s property and blocks the sunlight (especially for pools), whereas other residents object to the leaves falling in their garden.
Conduct a study
This is why we suggest that a planting study should form part of any permit.
Certain trees, such as eucalyptus, create danger because of their water-seeking roots reaching the plumbing installations, others have their leaves falling into the neighbours.
Trees require a lot of love and looking after, but then this is an investment that adds to the environmental value and of course to the value of the project/property.
Our favourite trees are pine, but it creates some problems because their tar-containing leaves restrict any other growth underneath.
Another choice, which we use in our projects, is Cypress trees, which have no/little branches, they are slim and tall, reducing the side-effects to others.
In the past, as part of a division permit, the Planning Department required tree planting on the pavements.
However, at a later stage and because the pavements were taken over by the trees, they have abolished this to accommodate pedestrian traffic, wheelchairs and children’s prams etc.
So, if you have a tree on your pavement (public) and if it dies, the authorities will not replace it, but it will extend the concrete paving to the whole pavement area – sad but it is necessary when it happens.
Certain countries such as Greece have very silly laws regarding the planting of trees.
If a plot of land has some vegetation, it is classified as “forest” land, restricting any development.
The end result is the burning of such trees/vegetation (hence the hundreds of fires that are happening in that country).
Watering of plants is always an issue bearing in mind the water shortages.
For private housing, it is more of a must to have a lemon/orange trees, as well as olive trees, which “contribute” to the home enjoyment.
Tree planting is especially suitable for seaside areas, where humidity helps, whereas more exotic trees (such as cedars – most beautiful) must have a cold climate, whereas other exotic fruit trees, including papaya, avocado etc are suitable for the purpose. Also, Palm trees, olive, carob trees.
Any tree/vegetation in your home/project is reflected in the property’s sales value, so do not believe that tree planting and maintenance is wasted money.
Far from it, it returns the cost in the form of added value several times over.
We have a long way to go in upgrading our environment which is why the University of Cyprus University has undertaken several tree planting projects, ranging from olive to carob trees on a large scale.
As a side note, we wish to point out the Leventis olive plantation in a barren – ex-mining area at Petra, which produces olive oil claimed to be “the best in the world”.