Tbilisi City Hall should protect the city's green cover
The undersigned organizations are concerned about the pollarding of trees in Freedom Square, which we believe is related to construction activities planned within the Tbilisi Panorama project.
The green cover, and especially large trees, is essential for ensuring a healthy living environment in the city. In addition to serving a visual purpose, trees reduce the concentration of harmful substances and particles in the air. This is particularly important for Tbilisi where the summer months are especially hot and the pollution index is high (due to no minimum requirements on fuel efficiency or emissions standards ). In the summer months the trees also bring temperatures down in the surrounding areas. Moreover, trees reduce the impact of heavy winds and rain.
Pruning of trees is a usual procedure and used in the world's leading cities to care for and maintain the vegetation. Unlike pruning, tree pollarding ( cutting a tree at a certain height) means a radical intervention in the development of a plant. It is rarely used or is altogether banned in leading cities (cf. the official tree planting and care standards in New York) because tree pollarding has a series of negative consequences (including loss or reduction of shadow or other useful functions, and increased risk of diseases). The usefulness of pollarding is questionable. Bidzina Giorgobiani, the new Head of Tbilisi City Hall Service for Ecology and Greening also expressed his negative attitude towards the practice of pollarding trees in a recent interview given to the Liberali magazine.
Tree pollarding as a rule is financed from the city budget. This opens up issues of wasteful spending of budgetary funds and even risks of corruption.
Therefore, in the event of tree pollarding being allowed in Tbilisi, it should be used only in exceptional cases and these cases should be set out in the relevant regulations. Unfortunately, tree pollarding and vegetation management in Tbilisi have, in general, occurred quite chaotically and thoughtlessly, with no coherent plan or standards. As a result, the city's green cover has been shrinking and the remaining plants are in a deplorable condition.
Protecting the city's green cover during construction works is a problem that deserves attention in its own right. Trees are often cut down or pollarded in Tbilisi due to construction works, although the sidewalks and trees do not belong to construction companies, of course. What is more, hundreds of trees have been destroyed in Tbilisi by the City government itself in the course of construction of infrastructure works led by it in recent years; when designing plans, the city government fell short of making mandatory provisions for retaining the green cover.
Such irrational and arbitrary decisions are especially unacceptable when it comes to preserving the outward appearance of the city’s main square. As Head of Tbilisi City Hall Service for Ecology and Greening explained, pollarding of trees took place at the request of the company engaged in dismantling the building of the former Union of Consumer Societies, as the trees were left without support from one side and they could fall down at any moment. If this is true, then we have an obvious case of a private company damaging the city-owned trees. Subsequently, the City Hall should apply appropriate sanctions against the company in question, and, at the same time, immediately approve rules ensuring the protection of the city’s green cover during such activities.
We urge Tbilisi City Hall to stop or minimize the practice of pollarding trees in the city and ensure tree pruning in strict conformity with the adequate modern standards approved by a pertinent normative act.
To protect the green cover of the city, it is equally important to supervise the activities of private developers while they are conducting their construction operations. The above actions would be all the more logical in view of the pre-election promises given by the new Mayor.
Transparency International Georgia
Guerrilla Gardening Tbilisi