No cutting of Mabaruma rubber trees
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…residents and authorities should heed thousands of online petition signatories

Dear Editor,

I WRITE again on behalf of trees, those silent workhorses within our midst that toil (often thanklessly) every second of their existence to remove dangerous toxins from the environment and produce the oxygen necessary for human survival. This time it’s the stately rubber trees of Philbert Pierre Avenue, Mabaruma, that are under siege. It is truly saddening that, a century after their planting by a son of that soil, some of the current residents of that community are agitating for their destruction in order to expand the roadway. I have read news articles reporting that the decision will be made by Mabaruma residents.

While I respect local authorities and decision-making processes, I maintain that the fate of these trees is one that concerns the wider Guyanese community, not just the residents of central Mabaruma. The ‘Rubber Walk’ is a well-known tourist landmark of the area and unforgettable to all who have ever visited; even people who no longer live in Mabaruma retain fond memories and deep love for those trees. Evidence of this is in the fact that over 2,000 people signed an online petition pleading for the rubber trees to be saved (see selected comments below). It would truly be a tragedy if these trees are destroyed; I urge that the sentiments of the petition signers be heeded. The fact is that there IS an alternate road route that could be widened to facilitate more vehicular traffic without cutting these trees.

In fact, the Minister of Public Infrastructure, Mr David Patterson, has stated on social media that his ministry was actually not in favour of cutting down the trees and had submitted a proposal to the Mabaruma authorities to enable road expansion without destroying the trees. [“MoPI acknowledged the significance of these trees, and presented a programme which did not affect the trees in any way..” – Facebook comment on Nov 18, 2019]. Surely, the MoPI’s proposal is one to embrace, since it has the backing of engineers and technical experts and will meet the community demand for a new road, while simultaneously saving these trees. I urge the Mabaruma authorities and residents to demonstrate true environmental leadership and make the rest of their fellow Guyanese proud, and to heed the technical wisdom of Minister Patterson and his staff. It is also important, imo, that funds be spent to hire professional tree pruners to prune the rubber trees to prevent dead or damaged branches from falling and causing harm to persons or property.

Sherlina Nageer

Selected comments of petition signatories:
* “Those trees are iconic. Been there for decades. Treat them as both heritage and endangered.”
* “Back in 2017 I visited Mabaruma for the first time and the sight truly captivated me. First time seeing trees so tall! It will certainly be a shame to have this scenic beauty destroyed.”
* “We need to plant more trees not cut them down.”
* “We need to save more trees as a country to help in the combat against Global Warming.”
* “Set o’ backwardness. Leave and nurture the trees. They are part of your natural patrimony. FIND AN ALTERNATE ROUTE!”
* “There is always a way around. Bend the road. Tree saving should be of utmost importance especially in these times we are living in. The age of the trees also should be taken into consideration. They are landmarks..”
* “I love the rubber trees. They make a visit to Mabaruma so special. They whisper lovely secrets all day long. Generations have had history with those trees. The air has benefitted from them. Pls don’t cut them down. Remember the tragedy of the teak trees in New Amsterdam.”
* “I am signing on behalf of my grandchildren and the lungs of the earth. Future generations in Guyana need to see the beauty and rich history of their country’s natural environment.”
* “These trees are to be cherished at all costs, no getting rid of them. They are iconic to the Mabaruma sub region.”
* “I signed because although I have lived in Trinidad for many years, my childhood years were spent at Mabaruma. Those rubber trees are precious to me. I have never forgotten them. I would be heartbroken if they are destroyed.”
* “My wife had her primary schooling in Mabaruma and took me to see the scenes of her childhood. The rubber walk stood out as an environmental treasure and area of beauty. It would be criminal to destroy them.”
* “It’s ridiculous that people will even consider cutting these trees down. The only iconic thing I know of Mabaruma is these trees. I have never been there and this sticks out in my mind about the place. These trees also provide shade from the hot sun and I am sure it’s very relaxing to walk under just as the trees in Main Street in Georgetown. No way. It must not be cut down.”
* “I lived at Mabaruma in the early 60s and those rubber trees were there, welcoming us every time we walked down the rubber walk. They are iconic! Please find a way around it. Be creative! Please!”
* “A green economy does not mean green paint, it means trees.”
* “This street (in all my travels locally) is quite unique. Good to learn of its history. Shouldn’t this be a national treasure?”
* “I grew up at Mabaruma. I knew the rubber trees when there was forest on both sides and when the trees did not wear white skirts. I took walks here as a child and picked up rubber seeds to see the
* faces on them. I have seen a flock of monkeys with their young passing overhead. I remember them being trimmed by someone very high up their trunks. I remember their shade and coolness. I have treasured these memories all my life. I have not visited Mabaruma for a long time and hope to in the future. I look forward to seeing the rubber trees. Sometimes in life we possess a treasure and are unaware of its great value. I am a person of Mabaruma and I am crying out for the trees to be allowed to live. They belong to the soul of Mabaruma.”
* “Because trees matter; we need them in order to survive. The lesser they become, the harder for us humans.”

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