Álvaro Santana Acuña

Much has been said these days in the streets of La Laguna and on social networks about the ferocious felling of forty-four healthy trees in Concepción Salazar street. This is a new arboricide. And I say new because the people of La Laguna know that it is not an isolated case, but that it has been added to the long list of attacks on the city's trees. I am reminded of that strange disease that suddenly sickened each and every one of the trees surrounding the Plaza del Cristo. A disease that was discovered months before the start of construction work on a gigantic car park under the square. What a coincidence! I also remember the felling of asymptomatic trees in the Plaza de la Milagrosa to build another underground garage. Years later, attempts were made to cut down trees in the Plaza de la Catedral. But citizen demonstrations and reports to the contrary from the University of La Laguna prevented the killing. There were even plans to cut down the trees in the Plaza del Adelantado to make another possible underground garage.

Let us not be confused. Responsible for these arboricides are all the political parties that have governed La Laguna since 1991 until today. I am talking about parties of the left and right, nationalist and non-nationalist parties, parties governing in coalition and alone. The message is clear: the tree is a nuisance.

Tree felling in La Laguna

In their time in opposition, several of today's politicians criticised arboricides. Now, from power, they defend them. They talk about the urgent need to install a rainwater network in this street, as if this network could not be built in the centre of the road (as was done in the pedestrianised streets of the historic centre), instead of channelling it along the sides where the trees already are. Furthermore, it is not said that the trees were there before most of the houses, it is not said that the owners attached their walls to the still growing trunks and it is not said that the poor design of the pavements and the insufficient tree wells meant that the roots ended up lifting the pavements. Instead, childish arguments are used to justify the unjustifiable: the great slaughter of trees.

Unfortunately, the same thing is happening to the heritage of the historic centre of La Laguna as is happening to the trees. All the governing parties have been guilty of this patrimonicide since 1999, when UNESCO declared La Laguna a World Heritage Site twenty-one years ago. Also, when they were in opposition, several members of the current corporation publicly called for the elimination of the Special Protection Plan (PEP), which since 2005 has been used to manage the historic centre. But today, with arguments just as childish, they defend it. They try to turn the PEP (i.e. a technical document) into a law, when the PEP is subordinated to what the Canarian and Spanish heritage laws dictate. Laws that the use of the PEP has constantly violated since 2005.

That PEP is the one that "legalised" the attempted arboricide and patrimonicide in the Plaza de la Catedral. As is already known, this PEP is the same one that the former mayoress Oramas allegedly manipulated to give commercial use to a family estate valued at four million euros. This PEP, which has allowed the criminal rezoning of land in the historic centre, is still being used to remove green areas (including trees) within historic 16th century plots, as in Calle Manuel de Ossuna, number 44. There, in breach of UNESCO guidelines and Canarian and national heritage laws, an apartment building is to be erected. Another one will be built in Anchieta Street, on the sports field where hundreds of people from La Laguna played for decades. And so, by eliminating green and sporting areas, La Laguna will end up as a city the colour of concrete. The sad reality is that arboricides and patrimonicides continue in La Laguna. Trees need to be respected. It is necessary to eliminate once and for all the massive felling of trees and to put an end to this harmful trend of aggressive pruning that weakens and sickens trees. For the heritage of the lagoon, the solution is to create an autonomous and apolitical board of trustees, like the one that manages, for example, the Alhambra in Granada. This is the only way to put an end to the slaughter.

Photographs: Álvaro Santana Acuña.

Article published on 6 December 2020 in El Periódico de Canarias, Gomera Verde, La Casa de mi Tía, Rincones del Atlántico, La Laguna Ahora, Tamaimos.

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