Call issued for more education about tree protection ahead of Arbor Month

The Department of Environment’s D’Kaboo Brann says more awareness needs to be created surrounding the importance of protecting trees. The ‘Flamboyant Tree’ (pictured), one of the most cherished trees in Antigua and Barbuda, is often trimmed due to overarching growth of its branches.
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By Orville Williams

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       Ahead of November’s Arbor Month celebration, a call has been issued for increased sensitisation and awareness about the protection of trees, specifically in regard to cutting them down.

During an appearance on Observer AM yesterday, D’Kaboo Brann and Amira McDonald – both with the Department of the Environment (DoE) – were questioned on the practice of cutting down trees, particularly those that are of cultural and/or historical significance to the people in and around where the trees are located.

It is not uncommon to see personnel attached to utility or construction companies removing parts of, or entire trees in some cases, because the trees may be interfering with utility lines (in the case of utility outfits) or building plans (for the construction firms).

In some of these cases the trees are located on private property, where the property owners have some, if not complete responsibility to keep them trimmed and from negatively affecting public spaces or other private properties.

In other cases, the trees are located on public property where the responsibility for their grooming rests with public agencies, and in some, trees on public property are hacked down by persons who may not necessarily have approval or authority to do so.

According to Brann, differing situations like these make the matter somewhat complex, meaning more discussions need to be had so that actions can be taken in the best interest of the trees.

“It’s a very nuanced situation because there are [measures] in place where certain trees and certain areas are protected…but based on my understanding, I think the protection of trees and cutting down of trees falls not necessarily on the Department of the Environment, but [presumably] the Ministry of Agriculture.

“There should be a situation where communication is made about certain actions and how they’re done, however, sometimes there are situations where it might be a privately-owned piece of land [or the cutting] might be done for a particular reason – to prevent [utility] lines from being disrupted.

“So, it’s definitely a situation where more education [and] more awareness needs to be done across the board, so we [become] more appreciative of the fact that trees are very important to the society that we live in,” he explained.

The pair were promoting the DoE’s celebration of Arbor Month, which will include staples like the Secondary School Art Competition and a public speaking competition entitled, ‘Speech on the Spot’.

Each Arbor Month as well, the DoE distributes trees for planting to residents and McDonald assured that this year’s celebration will be no different.

“We distribute trees throughout the entire year, but everything intensifies during Arbor Month when we go to schools and communities, we plant trees with them and we donate trees.

“We will be distributing all kinds of trees, [including] fruit trees and forest trees; fruit trees like soursop, avocado, guava, mango [and] golden apple as well.”

Bearing in mind the disruptions caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, Brann also noted that the planting of fruit trees in particular could actually play another important role, in contributing to the country’s food security.

“We [place] a lot of emphasis on planting fruit trees during Arbor Month [and] a lot of the times they’re your favorite trees – soursop and those types of fruits that [people] really love.

“They will eventually create fruits that you could either use for yourself or barter, so it helps to boost the food security aspect as well.”

Arbor Day will be celebrated this year on November 25, and the distribution of trees will take place during the DoE’s annual Arbor Day Plant Fair and Climate Fest.

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