Environmental terrorists felling trees in Juba

By Chance Baniko

The rate of tree felling in Juba without replacement is serious if not alarming. This is mostly fuelled by the need to expand business space at the expense of losing a precious tree forever. On the other hand the need for power development in town appears more promising than environmental protection leading to relentless chopping of trees. The irony is that authorities are aloof and oblivious about issues of environmental conservation.

Local authorities are partly to blame for the rampant destruction of environment in town with devastating consequences as exhibited in the intense scorching heat of the last three moons. For local authorities to approve the felling of trees in town without due diligence to climatic changes affecting our environment is not only repugnant and retrogressive, but it is also tantamount to environmental terrorism.

The excessive heat battering the city everyday can be attributed to degrading environmental conservation with children and the elderly suffering the most. My own son and others I have witnessed in the last three moons have all suffered serious heat rashes on their skins. This is an evidence that something somewhere is not right. Juba in the 70s and 80s used to be cooler as compared to today. Could it be that large swathes of forests that used to cool our environment have been destroyed, and therefore exposing us to this harsh level of radiation? Your guess is as good as mine.

However we have paranoid local authorities approving the felling of trees in town in exchange for a little tree felling payments. This cannot even buy two big roasted fishes in a restaurant. Why do you compromise the integrity of your esteemed office with the whims of such distaste?

Most of these trees were planted in 1972, by the then autonomous southern regional government. This was after the Anyanya one inked an agreement with Jaafar Mohamed Nimeiri that granted autonomy to southern Sudan. The neem trees were originally a project of the British colonial administration in the Sudan. They sourced the materials from India and its plantation proved successful in the whole Sudan.

Trees help us not only to trap dust, pollen and smoke from the air, but they create an ecosystem to provide habitat and food for diverse animal species. They also absorb carbon dioxide and potentially harmful gasses, such as sulfur dioxide, carbon monoxide, from the air and release oxygen or refresh air.

In the last three moons alone I have personally witnessed trees being cut at an alarming rate and nobody is coming forward to speak out against such practices. For instance at least 10 trees have been felled along the road from Mobil roundabout running to Juba stadium. These trees were felled to give way to expanding businesses premises along the route.

Again from Mobil roundabout route running to Juba Teaching Hospital (JTH) at least 5 trees have been cleared in this part to give way to businesses expanding towards the main road. This is just the tip of the iceberg, whereas more research needs to be undertaken to establish the statistics and the extent of the damage tree felling is having in town. Why would businesses always expand towards the main road and not backwards? To the best of my knowledge, one meter is supposed to be free or reserved between the main road and the business premises, not only to ensure safety of motorists and pedestrians ,but for some basic infrastructure as well. To make things worse, all the water canals along this route have either disappeared or have been blocked altogether by accumulating sand.

In the same manner  the route from Mobil roundabout  running to Malakia police station, have at least lost about 10 trees that make up the Unity Avenue have been cleared for the same business reason. More trees along the Khor Bow Malakia road have been badly squeezed by these same business men and may soon dry up altogether. The conundrum is that nothing is being done to replace them and the perpetrators of this environmental terrorism are freely walking in town looking for more opportunities to continue their destructive behaviors.

The same chopping of tree branches is being repeated along the ministries road in the name of power development. This has completely defaced the Ministries Avenue. In fact it can no longer be called Ministry’s Avenue. Are there no alternatives to power extension before chopping off tree branches? Do those who chop trees really comprehend the benefits of a good environment? If you don’t know, then please stop chopping these trees and leave them as they are or national parliament should intervene through proposition of a private member motion for the enactment of an expeditious legislation to put an end to this paranoia.

The effects of climate change on human health are a substantial cause of concern globally. It is linked to increased risk of disasters such as storms, cyclones, flooding and long term increases in sea levels. It will also Impact on production of food crops, food shortage and nutrient deficiency all of which directly affect human health. Oil and natural gas infrastructure will also be vulnerable to these effects, amongst others. These are scientific facts; anyone can check them out for themselves. How on earth then do some unscrupulous local authorities approve the cutting of trees in town?

Instead local authorities should be thinking of turning this environment green, by planting more trees during this rainy season, to offset the worrisome climate change, as opposed to clearing trees.

We shall never allow the destruction of our environment in our very eyes. Enough destruction of our forests has already happened during years of civil strife, therefore perpetrating the same thing in the town is completely unacceptable. Wake up folks.

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