To celebrate the Day of the Tree, the government provided small trees to the public free of charge to encourage tree planting.
The public responded, and out of the 300,000 saplings on offer, two-thirds were already given away, while the traffic jam near the forestry stations and the waiting time to secure a tree exceeded 2-3 hours.
This is most encouraging, and it is the result of education over many years, starting from elementary schools with the planting being an easy way to express one’s love for trees.
Planting small trees, with the government setting a target to reach one mln a year, is the easy part.
Caring for them until they grow to a sustainable age is the other and more difficult task.
After the “show” of tree planting, who will look after them by watering them, whereas shepherds have no reservation letting their herds feed on these plants.
At the same time, other farmers cause greater destruction by burning their fields, often developing into forest fires.
Just as well, we have seen over the years the development of large private and organised nurseries that provide trees of all sorts (more than 3-4 years) with increasing chances of these surviving.
Indigenous trees, such as cypress, carob, olive, pine, can be purchased at around €100-150 each (depending on age) with excellent chances of these surviving, bearing in mind the ever-rising heat of our climate.
Whereas cutting down a tree is easy and takes a few minutes, nurturing one takes years.
So, it is with pain that we see the cutting down of trees for firewood or development, which should form part of the government’s tree and forest protection plan.
Some indigenous trees have protection, with their cutting requiring a permit from the Forestry Department.
But this is freely given with no significant restrictions or conditions for their relocation and replanting.
Also, preparing the replanting of trees needs knowledge in their excavation and type of soil, planting in barrels and then replanting at their final destination.
This could reach a cost of at least €300 a tree, but then, the time element and the beauty that an older tree offers have multiple returns to the project or the environment and real estate values.
To start a debate on the matter, I suggest that any tree that needs to be cut and cannot be saved will require its replanting by the developer.
The replanting should form part of the building permit, and the developer must be responsible for its upkeep for at least 2-3 years so that the trees do not die due to lack of care.
In one of the projects under our management at Pervolia, the site had 30 aged cypress trees in a terrible state, and we had to fight the Planning Office to allow us to replace them to execute the project.
We bought 60 cypress trees from Spain, each at 3 meters height, beautifully packed and planted 15 years ago, and they are now the pride of the local environment.
The indigenous trees require little water, can withstand our extreme heat, rarely get sick, and minimal maintenance costs.
At a photovoltaic project being developed in Moni village, Limassol, around 40 olive trees of some age were cut.
If those 40 trees were to be replanted somewhere else, I would have felt much happier.
Private nurseries can replant mature trees, but with the responsibility of the landowner.
Replanting could be at any location, including public projects, such as on the side of roads or highways, in public parks.
Our Forestry Department is one of the best governmental services, where they care about their job and have the knowledge and desire to help and offer technical expertise and free advice.
Unfortunately, even for such noble actions as tree planting, we have petty politics involved.
In a recent action by the Greens, party members planted small trees within the route of a proposed public road so that the government would not cut them down, which it eventually will.
How is this “tree loving” when one knows that these trees face an inevitable destiny?
In another case, the root of a eucalyptus tree lies partially within the tarmac on Byron road, in Nicosia, and nobody dares to remove it, notwithstanding the danger to traffic.
A similar situation existed on Kyriakou Matsi avenue with 30 aged cypress trees preventing the widening of the road, causing accidents; Nicosia Municipality planted adult trees as a replacement within the new pavement.
Because grown-up trees are becoming a rarity, their value is considerable, with a recent one having a huge trunk and sold for €2,000!
So, yes, mature trees show a good return in any project and benefit the environment.
In a recent visit to Crete, the taxi driver told me, “you in Cyprus are lucky since God has given you all the soil and us (Crete) the rocks – whatever you plant in Cyprus, grows”.
I replied, yes, we have a lot of soil, but we lack brains.