JIS News

Mayor of Kingston, Senator Desmond McKenzie, has called for the strengthening of forest laws to penalize persons, who cut down trees arbitrarily.
“One of the things I’d like to encourage environmentalists to lobby for is for the law in Jamaica to be changed to make it a criminal offence to cut down trees,” said Senator McKenzie on Friday (Oct. 5), at the Forestry Department’s 5th annual National Tree Planning Day ceremony held at the Hope Botanical Gardens.
Stating that greater emphasis must be placed on the environment, Senator McKenzie said that the cutting down of trees to facilitate housing and other developments, “is not only robbing the city of its natural flood mitigation resources but has introduced new challenges for the maintenance of the city’s drains that are costing millions to upkeep”.
Citing the tree protection policy in Atlanta, Georgia, Senator McKenzie informed, that “all trees, regardless of the state, useless or not, is protected by the city. You can’t just go and chop down a tree in Atlanta, even if you own a property and you want to build a house. You first have to apply to the city and the city has to consider your application before you can remove a tree.”
He noted that the Kingston and St. Andrew Corporation (KSAC) has no such regulatory framework, and while the KSAC has been working closely with the National Environment and Planning Agency (NEPA) to ensure some level of compliance, “the environment is for all of us; that responsibility belongs to all of us.”
“We need to ensure that the limited green space that is left in the country, that it is maintained, and maintained in such a way that people continue to take pride in the city,” he urged, noting that people have been flaunting building codes and operating businesses in parks and areas designated as open space.
The Mayor further encouraged forestry stakeholders to launch a public education campaign to sensitize persons about the dangers of denuding the forested areas, and lobby for inclusion of lessons on the importance of growing and respecting trees, in the school curriculum.
In the meantime, Conservator of Forests and Chief Executive Officer of the Forestry Department, Marilyn Headley, encouraged persons to plant trees during the October to November rainy season and attend to the plants for the next three years. She said that the Forestry Department will replace trees that die.
The Hope Botanical Gardens was the focus of this year’s National Tree Planting Day exercise in Kingston and St Andrew. Trees planted include the cassia simea, lignum vitae, blue mahoe, pink and yellow poui, and the yellow poinciana.
According to Mrs. Headley, 10,000 seedlings were disbursed to some 400 schools and community groups across the island, which were involved in the day’s activities.
Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Agriculture, Donovan Stanberry, noted that since its inception in 2003, the Forestry Department has disbursed 60,000 seedlings through the National Tree Planting Programme and he commended the 1,500 private landowners, who consistently participate in the Private Tree Planting Programme.
National Tree Planting Day is an annual observance aimed at increasing the number of trees covering the island and conserving that 30 per cent of the island classified as forests.

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