National Arbor Day-The Importance of Trees

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A decade after the revival of National Arbor Day in Barbados, officials at the National Conservation Commission (NCC) remain concerned that not enough Barbadians are aware of the damage they are causing to the environment by the abuse and destruction of trees.

According to Special Projects Officer at the NCC, Ricardo Marshall, there were still too many instances where persons were burning, cutting and removing trees without due care or consideration.

He explained that, under the Tree Preservation Act (1981), it is an offence for anyone to fell trees of one metre or more in circumference without a permit. Permission must be sought from the Town and Country Planning Department.

“It is a practice that is happening too often and we certainly don’t condone this. We are trying as much as possible to make people understand and appreciate the importance of preserving and maintaining trees and the consequences of contributing to their demise. They are a natural resource which take many years to grow and they play a vital role in mitigating some of the effects of global warming.”

Mr. Marshall explained that the local Arbor Day Committee was hoping sometime in the near future to introduce a natural heritage designation for trees, as is the case in Canada.

That designation would allow heritage trees special protection by law, based on set criteria, by virtue of qualities such as age, size, height, historical significance, geographical location or shape.

Citing their many benefits, he pointed out that locally trees are used for a variety of purposes in homes and offices. For example, he explained that the leaves of the Soursop Tree were used for repelling mosquitoes, while those of the Bayleaf Tree may be placed in cupboards to keep roaches and are also used for tea and to spice up stews.

Barbados is also home to a diversity of fascinating plant life, like the Baobab Tree that was brought here from Guinea around 1738.  Two Baobab trees found here have possibly the widest trunks of any trees growing in the Caribbean.

The larger of the two, and possibly the oldest tree in Barbados, can be seen in Queen’s Park. It is 90 ft tall with a girth of 81ft and is estimated at some 1000 years old. The other specimen can be found at Warren’s Road, St. Michael.

National Arbor Day, which focuses on the importance and the protection of trees, was originally celebrated in Barbados in 1905. Two years later, the Government passed the Preservation of Tree Act which gave an incentive for the public to plant trees and to protect the land on which they grew.

The observance of Arbor Day was re-introduced in Barbados on September 22, 1997, with the assistance of a number of stakeholders.

As part of its tree planting activities for this year’s celebrations, the NCC will distribute some 500 trees to householders, students, youth and community groups and service clubs. Officials from the NCC are urging plant nurseries across the island to also donate trees for planting on Arbor Day.

Staff of the Commission will be planting trees at its headquarters at Codrington House, St, Michael, on Arbor Day to officially establish a tree nursery.

Since 1997, over 2000 trees have been planted at several sites across the island, including Walker’s Bay, Browne’s Beach, Government House, Ilaro Court, Queen’s Park, King George V Park, Folkestone Marine Reserve, Bay Street Esplanade and at various communities across the island.

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