Tree Replacement Project Sparks Protests In Santo Domingo
"To escape her stifling apartment, to unwind from her monotonous job, to tune out the squalor, noise and crime all around her, Josefina Filmont has long taken refuge in the cool, green embrace of the old mahogany trees skirting the fortress built here by the son of Christopher Columbus.
So when, without any public debate or notice, a city chain-saw crew showed up one day in late May and began felling the stately trees of her favorite park in the Colonial Zone, the 50-year-old clerical worker felt her last nerve snap.
"Those trees belong to the people, not the government!" fumed Filmont who, like most Dominicans, had suffered in silence through decades of official indifference to the working class. "They are the air we breathe and the only natural thing we have to enjoy here."
Appalled by local officials' plans to replace the European and African vegetation introduced by conquistadors 500 years ago with "native species," Filmont joined other angry residents of the capital who lashed themselves to the threatened trees."
"Thousands of towering trees with long branches and copious foliage have been felled in the last two months along the city's traffic-clogged thoroughfares. Stumps protrude like giant stubble from the steep slope of the park overlooking the port. Skinny adult palms plucked from inland forests have been set in the holes created by excavating shade trees, buttressed by wooden braces in soil cleared of verdant ground cover."