This year on the occassion of National Tree Day, the government decided to give away young trees to the public in order to encourage the planting of trees.
The response was overwhelming, with the 300,000 trees being snatched up way before the end of the day and people waiting in traffic for more than two or three hours to get there.
This is very encouraging and shows an appreciation for trees on the island, however, planting young trees is the easy part. Their maintenance till they reach a sustainable age is the hard part.
As the government plans to be planting more trees every year, who will be looking after the plants? Watering being the most basic task in a climate that is becoming increasingly hotter, but they will also require protection from shepherds who allow their goats to feed on everything and the destructive practice of grain producers burning their fields after harvest.
It is just as well that there are large privately-owned nurseries on the island where trees of all kinds of varying ages are available. Purchasing a tree that is already a few years old provides increased chances of survival. Indigenous trees, such as cypress, carob, olive and pine trees can be purchased for around €100-€150 each, depending on age.
The cutting down of trees is easy and takes only minutes, while it takes years for a tree to grow. This is why it is so painful to see the routine cutting down of trees for firewood or for deveelopment which takes place in Cyprus. It should be part of the government’s plan to increase trees on the island to protect them.
Most indigenous trees are supposed to be protected and a permit is required from the forestry department in order to cut one down, but permits are freely given with no major restrictions or requirements regarding their relocation and replanting.
Though the relocation of trees takes expertise and can cost over €300 per tree, this is a price we should pay considering the return we get from nature. The presence of older trees also adds much value to a development project.
This needs to be addressed and we suggest that if a tree truly cannot be preserved where it is that it falls developers or property owners to replant it and that they are also responsible for its upkeep for a period of two or three years after this.
It is worth noting that the forestry department is one of the better government services available with some staff who care about their jobs and who have the knowledge and the desire to help and give advice.
Mature trees are becoming a rarity and therefore more valuable. For example the old olive trees from the Venetian period are worth a considerable amount – one recently sold for €2,000. So preserving older trees is worth it financially as well as for the benefit of the environment.
On a visit to Crete, we were told by a taxi driver that “You, Cypriots, are very lucky, as God has given you all the soil and us [Cretians] the rocks; whatever you plant in Cyprus grows”. We replied that, yes, we have a lot of soil, but we lack in brains!
Antonis Loizou & Associates EPE – Real Estate Valuers, Estate Agents & Property Consultants, www.aloizou.com.cy, [email protected]