The City of Johannesburg, through Johannesburg City Parks and Zoo (JCPZ), has been presented with the prestigious National Arbour City Award for 2019. Maggie Sotyu, Deputy Minister of Environment, Forestry and Fisheries, made this announcement in Port Elizabeth on September 1, when she launched National Arbour Month in South Africa.
The Arbour City Award comes with a first prize of R300 000, which will be used to purchase seeds, saplings and trees to grow Johannesburg’s manmade forest and to address greening disparities in the City.
The national awards have grown to become one of the toughest competitions in the country and it is a huge honour for the City of Joburg to be presented with the award for the fourth time in the 18 years that the award has been running.
The award recognises local and metropolitan cities that have excelled on all levels of sustainable development. It interrogates policies, inter-governmental planning, capital development programmes, makes comparisons with visible implementation on the ground and then assesses monitoring mechanisms towards the creation of vibrant, sustainable and livable cities.
The adjudicators were particularly pleased with JCPZ’s handling of the Polyphagus Shothole Borer (PSHB) infestation in the City.
“JCPZ saved hundreds of trees on the backdrop of calls and unending social media pressure to remove all infested trees. In the absence of proper research and an approved chemical solution to treat infested trees, JCPZ only removed dead infested trees. Many of the trees, albeit infested, are not displaying symptoms of fusarium dieback at this stage,” said JCPZ’s Arbouriculturist, Adelaide Chokoe.
Chokoe, who is doing a PhD focusing on the PSHB, also received an award for her outstanding contribution to greening in the City of Joburg at the awards ceremony.
“To be recognized by the highest level of government is testament to the collective expertise, passion and commitment of every employee at JCPZ and within the City, who are consciously working to protect Joburg’s manmade forest,” said member of the mayoral committee for community development in the City of Joburg, councillor Nonhlanhla Sifumba.
Recently, Rwanda, Ethiopia and India have brought together business and communities to plant millions of trees in their respective countries. The benefits of planting just one tree are far-reaching. Every tree works as a natural filtration system and consists of at least 50% carbon captured from the air. It acts as a conduit to foster national pride and ownership and helps to create aesthetically pleasing and economically vibrant suburbs.
“It is time to restore that sense of urgency to accelerate tree planting in Johannesburg. We have an ageing tree canopy, with many species reaching their full life expectancy and, as a result, these trees have become more prone to opportunistic diseases and the effect of inclement weather,” said Sifumba.
“Arbour month in September is therefore a vital springboard for schools, resident associations, business, government and the media to work as an integrated unit, to get our hands dirty for a good cause, by planting trees across the City.”
Every region in the City will be hosting a tree planting ceremony and JCPZ calls on all companies to offset their carbon footprint by planting trees.