A war of words is raging over Nicosia Municipality's decision to prune Ficus trees on central arteries.
The municipality says it had no choice, as the roots of the trees were creating enormous problems especially to drainage networks and/ or other utilities. It has found backing in Povek, the small shopkeepers association, as well as Urban Cyprus Society, an NGO that is vocal of development issues.
But members of the public as well as the Greens say it is unacceptable that Nicosia should have its trees sacrificed. They say the town needs green, adding that the shorn trees are ugly.
But the municipality said the problems were created by the Ficus because they grow fast.
Although they provide cool green areas, they had not been pruned for many years and this has caused serious problems.
That is why it decided to proceed to a pruning and care process on Makariou Avenue, Evagorou - Stasinou, Salaminos and Spyrou Christodoulou streets, it added.
Already, pruning has been carried out on a small number of trees on part of Evagorou Avenue and in the area of the Archangelos Michael Church in Kaimakli.
The municipality said it took the decision after multiple problems arose with storm water drains.
It said the roots had lifted pavements, damaged buildings' walls and led to accidents of citizens as a result of fruit falling from the trees onto the pavement throughout most of the year.
It was agreed with various state services that from now on, other types of trees will be planted when new roads are built to avoid damage to infrastructure and adjacent buildings.
The pruning in question is considered urgent as it will limit the damage to underground pipelines and utilities and will also have the following benefits:
It will mean enhanced cleanliness of the city since after they are pruned, the trees will not bear fruit for at least two years.
There will therefore be less foliage and roots and pavements will be easier to clean, while there will also be better absorption of rain from culverts.
There will also be less pollution from impurities of birds that feed on the fruit of the trees, it added.
Less damage to infrastructure will also mean lower cost of repairs.
The development of trees will not be at risk since the trees will recover and develop new foliage within the next few months.
At the same time, that will have a lesser height, which will allow them to be pruned / formed more easily and at a lower cost in the future.
Alternative solutions would be the complete replacement of trees or moving the sewerage network. Both measures are deemed impractical and uneconomic to achieve at the moment.
The Small Shopkeepers association Povek and the Shopkeepers Association of the walled city also say the pruning is essential because of the multiple problems created.
According to their announcement, the proper functioning of services, tidying, cleaning and the safe use of pavements were the compelling reasons which dictated the measure.
"The Municipality of Nicosia, through a planned programme will have to monitor the growth of trees and greenery in order to avoid any problems while maintaining the city's green areas," concluded the announcement.
And Urban Cyprus Society applauded the municipality's decision.
"Finally a correct decision. Light should come back to the town of Nicosia which has gone dark from the impenetrable darkness of the imported parasites," it said.
It was one thing to love green, another to pollute it with trees such as Ficus and eucalyptus which are trees that were introduced to our country," it said.
Urban Cyprus said the municipality should start the staged replacement of the Ficus and replace them with deciduous trees which do not cause any damage.
This would help mark the seasons, offer a beautiful sight in autumn, allow the sun through in winter and offer shade in the summer, they concluded.
Residents and Green Party outraged
Most Nicosia residents as well as visitors to the city are outraged by the way Ficus trees on main streets and pavements of the capital have been pruned so far.
Residents support that the pruning process is stripping the city of its green lungs and oxygen, while visually, the shorn trees are ugly. The residents have vented their rage in calls to the media and to the Green Party which has also demanded the municipality stop further pruning of trees.
Green Party MP George Perdikis has also warned that in view the public opposition against the pruning process, the party is studying the possibility of carrying out a mass protest over the weekend, aiming to stop the “haircut” of trees. The representative of the Green Party did not exclude the event from preventing pruning.
“As a party, we have spoken against the manner in which the Ficus trees are being pruned. We consider it clear that this serves other interests: to produce firewood and for the municipality not to need crews to regularly prune the trees.
These trees normally have to be pruned once a year and instead of doing so, they have decided to prune them once and for all in order to reduce costs…We were told to choose between this and uprooting them.
We were also warned that if problems caused were not solved by the pruning, the municipality would revert to the other option.
“We consider these unacceptable events,” concluded the announcement.