Church Environment Commission calls for more trees to be planted
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The Church Environment Commission (KA), in a statement has said that it has noted with satisfaction that the Government is to embark on a new drive to plant trees, namely on Comino and other parts of the island. “This is commendable.”
The KA went on to say that it “augurs that the Government’s commitment in this regard is sustained and intensified and makes use of the best qualified people in this area.” Adding that it hopes that more areas in the country are earmarked for afforestation.
It also called for plans for a racetrack at Ta’ Qali to be abandoned, and to “plant more trees to enlarge the recreational area.”
The Commission pointed out that there are various references to trees in the Bible, including some that refer to the “tree of life.”
“Apart from their metaphorical meanings, trees do provide a great service to humankind. Their greatest contribution is much closer to home than the inspiration that they provided and continue to provide to poets, painters and musicians over the ages,” the KA said.
It added that “as well as providing the raw material for various goods they also provide an immense service in the form of carbon sequestration, reducing pollution, shelter from the sun, recreational space where people can interact with nature and the obvious aesthetic value both in rural as well as urban areas.”
The KA has put forward suggestions for what it described as “a continued commitment towards tree planting in the country,” namely:
“To include tree planting along the roads that are going to be rebuilt over the next seven years under the Government’s €700 million plan
The KA noted that the Government has embarked on a large-scale project to rebuild roads. “We appeal to Government to include tree-planting, where this is technically possible, in the design of the rebuilding of the roads. Due to their width some roads can accommodate such trees. There are various trees that can be planted along such roads.”
It also appealed to Transport Malta, “not to regard a road just as a passage for vehicles but also as a passage for pedestrians who need to be in contact with nature in an urban environment. Care should be taken so that road widening does not remove trees where this can be avoided through wise design.”
The KA urged also to plant trees in urban areas and “amend the Development Notification Order.” Saying that “though it is understandable that in certain cases there would be no alternative for the removal of trees, the KA is not convinced that enough efforts, skills and innovation have been resorted to in order to ensure that trees in urban areas are safeguarded.”
“As the law currently stands, namely the Development Notification Order (DNO) which allows development to be carried with minimum or no notification to the Planning Authority, trees in such areas can be destroyed without any evidence being presented that all efforts have been made to spare the trees from destruction,” the KA said.
It added that “the fact that minimum public consultation is carried out does not augur well for the preservation of the relationship between people and trees.”
“A distinction exists between trees in Urban Conservation Areas where they are protected and the same species of trees which, although situated in urban areas, lie outside Urban Conservation Areas and are therefore not protected. People do not live only in Urban Conservation Areas but also in other urban areas which are not designated as Urban Conservation Areas,” the KA said.
It continued by saying that “the importance of trees to the community is not diminished by whether they are situated in Urban Conservation Areas or other urban areas. Trees in large private gardens in urban areas also have an important function as a lung for such areas and their importance should be recognised at law and in local plans and planning policies.”
KA also suggested to compile, through the Environment and Resources Authority, a list of sites in urban areas which contain trees that give such sites their special character.
“Such sites do not enjoy any protection and therefore we appeal to the Environment and Resources Authority to compile a list of such sites to be protected under the Trees and Woodland Protection Regulations 2011.”
“These sites include streets lined with trees on both sides and the mature trees provide rare street canopies in the country. Such trees are prominent landmarks which give such streets their unmistakable character,” the KA said.
The KA said that it “sincerely hopes that during this period of the year when care for Creation is given more prominence, the authorities concerned would seriously consider its appeals, for the good of all.”
Photograph by Alain Salvary