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Saturday, April 12, 2014


From readers


Dear Mike,


I am devastated to see that the Fir trees are being indiscriminately cut down after the storm that ripped through the suburbs two weeks ago on Thursday. Our city is so beautiful with the trees lining the roads and is a stark comparison to many other cities around the world which are barren and devoid of trees and birdlife.


I realise that damage was caused to Zesa lines and was devastating to many, myself included, who went without power for ages/ had walls damaged,  and I realise it was costly to clean up ( although most of the clean-up was done already by people helping themselves to the wood). I also realise it caused inconvenience as it blocked arterial routes for a few days for some.


But wasn't this a freak storm that will only likely recur in ten years or so? Some have said it was like a mini tornado touch-down. Surely the trees that remained standing are the ones strong enough to withstand such winds that they were exposed to. Even the row of trees at the top of Quorn Avenue is being cut yet not one fell in the storm.


The fir trees next to Sam Levey's village provide a nesting site for many birds, including large numbers of Herons, you can hear them if you are in the car-park and listen . The trees next to the International School are now all cut down, where they used to provide sites for our local resident Crested Eagle pair to perch in. Who is collecting the cash from all this firewood I would like to know... and is it being put back into planting more trees that are less likely to fall?


Where will it end, are they going to cut down all the trees lining the roads?


As a logical individual, I can understand some of the weaker trees needed to come down, but I also logically cannot understand why all of them? And as a nature-lover, this has been heartbreaking. 
I acknowledge the reader’s sadness re: nesting grounds, but the reality is that at a certain height, these firs, simply are going to come down by themselves anyway.  Even in the lightest of storms – endangering lives; properties; infrastructure for which our municipalities are responsible for AND indeed birds homes too.  A family member nearly lost their life (while his passenger did lose his life) when one of the trees in a line of firs came down on their car, driving in rain along Crowhill Road - and that already a decade ago...  Quorn Avenue was heading towards even more danger.  Many of these lines of firs were first intended as hedges, but without upkeep  then turned into tall lines of firs.  However, I feel excellent for this debate is stirring up the tidying of remaining stumps whilst growing of more suitable indigenous trees types to replace these. - YAY


Personally I hate fir trees and, given the fact that they are in no way indigenous to this region, can't honestly say I am losing any sleep about their removal.  They remove so much light and many people who live surrounded by them don't see the sun after 3 pm on a daily basis.   We removed over 400 fir trees from our property about 8 - 10 years ago (yes, we simply hacked down the whole lot and carted them off the property)  and replanted the whole area to indigenous trees - acacias, figs, mahogany's  (funnily enough the Msasa's refused to take and all died).  It really is a beautiful piece of land now and, whilst it looked a bit like ground zero for a while, I am glad we did it.  I would love to see all the fir trees removed, properly cleared out and then replaced with a hardy indigenous tree (or a collection thereof) that will not grow to the heights of the fir trees and thereby run the risk of falling over.  We need to implement a plan to do this - its surely not that difficult.  All the fir trees will have to be stumped, not just cut, and then other trees planted in their place.  Various residents will then need to be responsible for watering the trees in their immediate areas until such time as the trees have established themselves.  The acacia in particular seems particularly hardy.   It may look a bit shoddy for a few years but, in no time at tall, it will look fantastic.  Its really not difficult - just needs a collective will and a bit  of co-ordination. Kind regards Jane


I don't think the digging up to install cables, fibre or whatever they are laying is really helping the root bases of the trees.  We certainly noticed it on Arcturus Rd with the last storm.  Several trees came down specifically where they had dug trenches to lay down cables.  When they got to our property I was concerned that they didn't cut the tree roots, as exactly, next big storm they would fall.  They assured me they wouldn't and indeed didn't cut them.


As far as Fir trees go, they're not indigenous and do not make strong, deep roots, hence 'are' dangerous in storms, especially the height some of them get to.  Lots of people are now planting indigenous trees like Fever trees on their verges/roads instead, which are water-wise and indigenous.  Am sure you'll get a lot of comments about this hot topic, as we all love the trees lining the avenues of Harare.  Tree-lover


Thank you so much for publishing my email. Unfortunately I forgot to add that I know these trees are not indigenous, and I know some of them may have reached close to their life-span. I also didn't add into my email- why can't they just cut half the tree, or just the dangerous branches over Zesa lines. It will make it less likely to fall and still keep the greenery. Also, could they not just select only the old/weak trees to cut, not the whole lot. Strong and healthy trees have no reason to be felled. If each tree is worth $200 for planks and firewood, over 100 trees were cut in Mt Pleasant, that is $20 000. Is that being put back into re-planting of native species? Or quick growing species?  Or betterment and maintenance of our area? Who is monitoring all of this?  Borrowdale road, Kingsmead Lane, Addington Lane, and others are all being cut also. It is not only fir/Cyprus trees being cut, other species are also being cut now.   We will not see trees grow so tall and mature in the next 30 years, even if they re-plant today.

I have to say I am all for the fir trees being chopped down, they are not indigenous to Zim, rather replace them with beautiful Msasa’s


Fir Trees- we have removed every fir  tree from our yard. Years ago two caught fire from lightening, nothing grows under them, one fell  over  in a strong wing  damaging our electricity line.

Out with the firs !


I was trapped for a little while after that storm next to a leaking petrol bowser (due to the storm) so was pleased to see they were chopping down the very old fir trees on Borrowdale Road, as it was very scary that night of the storm.  I love trees but think it would be better to plant indigenous trees as they weathered the storm better, I hear! Worried about fire when trapped


Around Monavale it seemed indigenous trees faired best in the storm here earlier. Was this the case elsewhere? Ofcone.


 I  am really disappointed by this large scale felling of trees.  As the previous respondent said, this was a freak storm and surely the damage has been done.  I’ve been living along Borrowdale Road for 40 years and never seen anything like this. My question is, who is doing the cutting?  The treecutters I have dealt with generally work on the understanding that “we don’t charge anything but we keep the wood”.  The amount of timber being felled is phenomenal.  A great business opportunity but a tragedy for the suburbs. “Love Trees”


I have to add my bit, even though I don’t live in Harare !  I agree with everyone who is NOT unhappy to see the trees come down.  They are dangerous, as tall as they are, and as commented on so many times already - not indigenous and need to be removed.  I feel the same way about eucalyptus trees !  And Jacarandas. And Syringas. Seeing indigenous trees is far better, and provide a food source and habitat for our indigenous birds.  There should be a project in place to remove alien vegetation and replace with indigenous species everywhere in the country.


Fir trees are like Gum trees – very water hungry! They also produce an enormous amount of pollen at certain times of the year that contribute to serious hay fever. We cut down all the fir trees around our plot about 10 years ago and my hay fever decreased significantly – we replaced them with Fever trees and Albesias which look so much better. Fir trees should only grow in plantations for the production of pine-wood.


Yes I agree the Fir trees should go they are not indigenous and hence they cause a problems.  Nothing grows under them as they are very acidic. Many of the non indigenous trees lining our streets bring up the tar on the cycle tracks and roads as the trees roots go in search of water.  Jacaranda trees are a favorite for this and flamboyant trees, as lovely as they are.  Jacaranda trees are also susceptible to white ants and can just fall down once the inside of the tree has been eaten away.  I love trees and agree that all the non indigenous trees should be replaced with indigenous ones.  The acacia trees are especially beautiful and if pruned correctly make a lovely umbrella  of shade.  The birds love these trees, as their nests are safe from snakes etc.  I see someone has planted a whole row of the green trunk acacia trees on their verge on Churchill, just before the robots that cross over Borrowdale road.  They look amazing.


I am also of the opinion that fir trees left unchecked should be removed. ! I am very happy to see that more indigenous trees are being planted but saddened      by the fact that they are being planted without knowledge of their ultimate size & spread !!! There are several verges around the Chisipite/. Borrowdale areas that have "fever trees" planted far too close to one another . Clearly the people who planted them have given no thought to their full size or perhaps the sellers        are not providing any information  ???  Could the Forestry Commission not assist  with some  replanting  &  information ?Having given consideration to power lines  etc  could they not offer interested parties suitable trees to plant & nurture outside their properties  ? Surely the "replacement exercise " would be hugely successful  &  benefit everyone in the future ?          signed--- another tree lover


Gardening in Zimbabwe has a summary on trees suitable for planting along roads.   The msasas are lovely and surprisingly fast when they start growing but they are difficult to get started.     The acacias make lovely shade trees and the tree wisterias are ideal where narrow trees are needed.     


I too think there is no longer a place for Cyprus especially now that they have been thinned into irregular patches and that indigenous successful water wise trees are the future, if they will grow there. This is going to be a race for space – before municipality sells our soles to advertising which will be hideous. You just have to look at some west African towns (Accra) to see how it is almost impossible to see the surroundings for 30 kms from the town center, for bill boards. Thousands of them and we are going the same way – big ones, small ones, ugly scruffy ones....... So lets plant lots of indigenous trees – Acacias are very suitable and many others. Charles


With regards to this tree chopping – I understand that after that freak storm some trees needed to be taken down. What I don’t understand is the brutal chopping down of huge old trees. This is what I witnessed yesterday outside some-one’s property in Highlands. I understand that safety is of concern but really was it necessary to butcher all those trees?  I think the action is radicle and reckless. Home owners don’t seem to consult professional tree doctors & I feel they are too quick to call in the chain saw’s. After several heated conversations & some pleading thank goodness the home owner came to his senses and decided that he would try trimming first. I think if these trees had been allowed to be chopped down it would have been a travesty. On the topic on indigenous .. Jacaranda’s aren’t .. So are we going to start chopping those down next? The fact remains these old trees take 60 years plus to grow & take 30 minutes to fell. They are then gone forever. Lets care for & protect our neighbourhood trees that have been standing for longer than we have Please fellow Zimbabwean’s ..THINK     TAKE ADVICE   &   ONLY THEN CUT A TREE DOWN IF ITS ABSOLUTELY NECESSARY One person can make a difference 


I can understand and indeed sympathise at least in part with the sentiments expressed by your writer and I understand from City of Harare officials that the initial exercise was halted because of such an outcry from residents. However, I ask how many of the objectors actually live in the shadow of the trees on the Borrowdale Road. As someone who does, and whose property was threatened by the inevitable fall of some of these trees, I wholeheartedly welcome their removal.


There were and are a number of reasons for the removal of the trees:

-          They were definitely overgrown, reaching a height of around 25m by my estimate. This is too tall for trees bordering a public highway and would not be acceptable anywhere else in the world.

-          They were are planted too closely together, with planting gaps of approximately 1 metre in some cases. Under good forestry management practice this would call for at least the thinning out of the standing timber. In a 100 m length bordering my property there were 61 trees.

-          Many of them were diseased, as evidenced by the sawn trunks of many of those removed, which exhibited hollow cores.

-          It has been suggested to me that the age and size of the trees, having grown in conditions where prevailing weather is from the north-west, were particularly vulnerable to any adverse conditions from other direction, as evidenced by the recent storm, which came from the south-east.

-          Even in relatively calm conditions the trees frequently lose branches which cause damage to the power lines and pose a threat to passing traffic, both vehicular and pedestrian. I have lived with many power interruptions over the years caused by branches falling off the trees and this has become worse in recent years.

The root of the problem stems from a lack of maintenance over many years, which is a separate argument and not one likely to provide a workable outcome. However, given that the trees have been allowed to reach an overgrown state, the only solution is to feel them, either in whole or in part. Having felled them, the question is now what happens. For my part, I have arranged with the District office to replace the trees outside my property with suitable fast growing indigenous trees.  Out of The Shadow


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