The local government sent out a contractor and his crew to clear the 1.5 meter wide corridor of government controlled no-man’s-land that lies between the fence of the children’s home and the fence of an adjacent government owned house that until recently had been unoccupied. I thought they just wanted to clear some of the undergrowth and perhaps prune the trees however in no time their chainsaws ripped right through four small and two medium sized trees. After they had left I went over and surveyed the damage. I wasn’t happy about it but what could I have done if the local government sent this contractor and his chainsaw armed crew to clear land and cut down a few small to medium sized trees that were on government property.
However when they came back a few days later with a crane to cut down the two much larger trees that the smaller trees had been growing in between I initiated a charge to stop them. I refused to move a car that was blocking the crane’s access to the trees until the supervisor could call in the government official that gave him the contract to do the job. By time he arrived I had the support of two of the directors at the children’s home. It seems that the public servant that recently moved into that adjacent house complained about all the water monitors and other wildlife and wanted the land cleared. One of the contractor’s men also told me that the two big trees were rotting and hollow inside therefore needed to be cut down. I told him I wasn’t an expert but that the trees looked very healthy and should not be cut down unless someone comes over, someone that isn’t being paid to cut down the trees, and confirms the trees pose a danger.
After making our case the government official went to tell the new neighbor that they could not cut down the trees and were only going to cut down the branches hanging over their side. After they finished trimming and left they went down the street to a few of the other government owned houses in that neighborhood of government owned houses to trim some more trees. The next day I took a walk around the neighborhood to make sure they weren’t cutting down any more trees without good reason. I walked by a few trees that had been trimmed but I didn’t see any tree stumps. That was until I came to a patch of green space that runs along the back of three of the government houses and right up to the backyard of the children’s home. When I heard the chainsaws in the distance earlier that day I figured they were still trimming trees however when I walked around and over to the other end of the green space to see what they were doing they had already cleared nearly a third of it with the help of a backhoe.
I asked them what the plan was and the one guy who could speak English told me it was to clear the 185 meter long strip of land from that fence to our fence. When I asked why they told me that in the other government house next to the green space lived a police inspector who also didn’t like all the trees and animals behind his house. I was shocked that just because some public servants who were given free housing next to some green space didn’t enjoy the nature that they could order a chainsaw team to come by and cut it all down without any consideration of the environmental impact or views of some of the neighbors who did enjoy this green oasis. This space is one of the few remaining green spaces in the area and it provides food and shelter to a number of wildlife species which are increasingly hard to come by on this side of the island. I have seen a variety of beautiful birds like blue king fishers, golden orioles, and white-breasted waterhens along with spectacled langurs, civet cats, paradise tree snakes, and water monitors.
After some running around we were able to find the government department that was responsible for approving such a clearing and they said that they did not approve any trees to be cut down so a person from that department went and told the contractor to stop cutting down trees and they stopped leaving the two-thirds of green space closest to our fence intact. The manger here knows someone at one of the local newspapers and had them come out this morning, September 2nd, to hear the story and take some photos. They plan on publishing an article which I hope will help raise environmental awareness and get people to realize that they shouldn’t stay quiet when things like this happen. If I hadn’t said anything I’m sure nobody else would have either and the other two thirds of this green oasis would have been cleared and many of the animals that inhabited it would have died trying to seek new homes in a city with fewer and fewer places for them. I hope that the government officials responsible will be sternly reprimanded and that in the future proper protocol will be followed when determining which trees to cut down and what land to clear.