What should have been just an environmentally friendly project promoting the planting of trees for every baby born in Cyprus has degenerated into a presidential election spat over who first thought up the idea.
The Environment Commissioner Ioanna Panayiotou entered the fray on Monday after the government on Sunday accused Diko leader Nicolas Papadopoulos of being a copycat after he announced that if elected, he would introduce the policy of planting a tree for every new-born. He said he would create tree parks across Cyprus so that each family would have its own trees, as part of measure to promote reforestation.
But the measure, deputy government spokesman Victoras Papadopoulos said, had been in place since 2015 when it was launched by the environment commissioner.
Despite the bickering between the government and Diko over who was the brainchild of the measure, Panayiotou welcomed on Monday the interest expressed by the presidential candidates on environmental issues and the promotion of tree-planting activities.
Around 500 trees had been planted over the last two years in five Nicosia district parks as part of the programme ‘one tree for every new-born’, she said.
“Mr Nicolas Papadopoulos, however, unaware of the existence of this programme and apparently driven by the Greens’ MP Giorgos Perdikis, announced the same programme/action as his own environmental proposal if elected, with exactly the same title,” the deputy spokesman said.
He added that the government welcomed however Diko’s intention to carry on the current administration’s programme.
The government’s sarcastic response prompted Perdikis, whose party backs Nicolas Papadopoulos’ candidacy, to reply that the programme in question had been proposed by the Greens, not the Anastasiades administration. He added that only a small number of municipalities expressed interest and organised tree-planting events at their own expense and with the Greens’ support.
“The Anastasiades administration never adopted this programme, proved by the fact that no government representative or even the competent minister ever attended these tree-planting events,” Perdikis said.
“Nicolas Papadopoulos expressed his commitment that this programme will become a government policy, by upgrading and expanding the tree planting programme and making Cyprus greener,” Perdikis said,
Perdikis also criticised the Anastasiades administration for failing to make the island greener as thousands of trees had been felled to make way for the redevelopment of several areas.
Panayiotou said that the tree-planting initiative came from her office and was not state policy.
“It is an action aimed at planting a tree for every newborn. It is a practice followed by many countries,” Panayiotou told the Cyprus Mail. She added that at the moment there are five such parks: two in Geri, two in Latsia and one in Engomi.
Municipalities, she said, invite each year parents of newborns to express interest in the scheme, and organise each year tree-planting events in these parks. The trees are provided by the municipalities, and the families take care of the tree planted for their children. Municipal crews also keep an eye on the trees. So far, around 500 trees have been planted since 2015.
Panayiotou welcomed however the interest of candidates in such issues.
“Any proposal or action promoted concerning raising environmental awareness is most welcome,” Panayiotou said. “I am happy that candidates are concerned about environmental issues.”
It is important however, Panayiotou said, that these proposals are implemented.
She added that tree planting is a measure against climate change and could also help against the desertification threat.
Encouraging families to plant trees for their new-born children, she said, could eventually become a tradition.
Panayiotou said that planting trees for every new-born – amounting to thousands each year – could be feasible, as there are technologies to ensure not a lot of water is needed for their upkeep.