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Georgians Protest Over Felling Of Ancient Trees

Tbilisi's Agmashenebeli Avenue, tree-lined no longer
Tbilisi's Agmashenebeli Avenue, tree-lined no longer
Residents of the Georgian capital, Tbilisi, have complained this spring that beautiful old trees are being cut down en masse, leaving whole streets and squares bare.

Tbilisi city hall's decision to cut down hundred-year-old trees on scenic Agmashenebeli Avenue left many aghast, as they were replaced with tiny saplings that will take years to reach the same heights and provide the same relief from the blazing summertime sun.

In mid-May, environmental and anticorruption activists joined local residents in protesting against the felling of trees in nearby Deda Ena Square.

"When it comes to cutting down trees that were planted years ago before I was born, of course I will come out and protest. It's my health, my children's health. When do they think their new trees will grow that are already dry?" one local resident said.

Demonstrators said that while it was said that plane trees were being cut down because their blossoms caused many people to have allergic reactions, fir and lime trees were cut down as well.

Activists have also taken the city to task for clearing trees in recreational areas to build police facilities, despite zoning laws forbidding such construction.

In another case, Transparency International Georgia has reported that the Tbilisi city administration signed a contract to buy cypress trees from the Greenservice company to replace all the old trees it had cut down on Baratashvili Street.

The only bidder in the tender, Greenservice, is owned by two former city officials, and billed the city a price per tree 33 times what the city paid for similar plants on other occasions, Transparency said.

The city administration later canceled the contract with Greenservice, a decision that Transparency welcomed.

Meanwhile, "Georgia Today" has reported that an "alarming number" of trees in Tbilisi "are dying because of improper care," according to a report by an environmental NGO, Safe Space Tbilisi.

Environmental activists have blamed the city's recent practice of cutting down trees, and said such decisions need to be made by specialists, not city officials.

-- Dan Wisniewski

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