Joburg agency seeks to plant a million trees in five years

12 November 2008 | News story

Managing agency for cemeteries, parks and environmental conservation Johannesburg City Parks MD Luther Williamson says that the agency aims to plant one-million trees in the next five years.

The Greening of the City project was initiated by the agency two years ago, with the aim of greening ‘dust bowls' of the city, with an initial target of 200 000 trees by 2010.

"The landscaping masterplan deals, by suburb, with the type of greening needed throughout Johannesburg, with particular emphasis on brown areas, such as Soweto, Orange Farm, Diepsloot, Ivory Park and Alexandra," Williamson adds.

These areas are dusty and have very few trees and plants. Other areas the agency is also focusing on include areas affected by mine dumps.

"We aim to try and cushion the effects that the mine dumps have on the areas from an environmental perspective," he says.

To date, 90 990 trees have been planted, and the last tree was planted by former President Nelson Mandela, as part of a campaign to ensure the world pays attention to greening in South Africa.

"We have already spent approximately R200-million on greening Johannesburg. Because a lot of parks and trees were historically kept only for privileged areas, the areas we are focusing on have no greening. We spent over R20-million on a park in Thokoza, and we built another park in 24 hours that cost R4,6-million, to name a few," he adds.

A total of R1,5-billion is still required to ensure that Johannesburg becomes a green and luscious metropolitan.

"We need to raise funds to further the greening of the city, and, therefore, we have exciting initiatives to plant, say, 6 000 trees in ten minutes, or plant 30 000 trees in two months, or to build a park in 24 hours. We are seeking to pull in global input in addressing greening issues," Williamson states.

He adds that the Greening of the City project is a pioneering project internationally, and that the agency wants to demonstrate to the world that, even if an area has a lack of green space, and trees and environmental issues have been neglected, these are being dealt with, and there is an environmental sector plan to ensure that key issues are addressed.

"By building parks, a lot of communities are benefiting. For example, a park we built recently within 24 hours now stands as the play area for 4 000 children from that community. People can now walk, cycle and play in that area, in an environment that is green and refreshing," he notes.

Williamson remarks that the project is also a springboard to many environmental education programmes.

At least 25 000 people have been trained in terms of awareness campaigns. More than 3 000 people are employed on greening projects, by actively getting involved and setting up small businesses rendering services to these greening projects. The agency has an expanded public works programme, which has trained 2 000 people on greening projects in horticulture. The agency also outsourced R15-million on greening maintenance programmes.