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Massive fines to be issued if residents prune trees

Johannesburg is said to be the largest man-made urban forest in the world, with over 10 million trees throughout the city.

Many of them line suburban streets, and Johannesburg City Parks and Zoo (JCPZ) has noticed a rise in the illegal felling and pruning of street trees.

There is also a notable increase in removal requests during the autumn and winter months. This is usually due to concerns like fallen leaves obstructing pools and drainage systems, or trees blocking sunlight and solar panels.

Businesses also frequently cite them as obstructions to entrances or advertising signs.

Fines of up to R327 000

According to city bylaws, street trees belong to the City of Johannesburg, and any removal or disturbance without JCPZ authorisation is prohibited.

The bylaws state that ‘no person may damage any tree on any public road within the municipal area of the Council and that, only JCPZ is authorised to remove, maintain and prune street trees.’

Updated bylaws have now been passed to further protect these valuable green assets, which includes a set of severe penalties and fines.

JCPZ is working with enforcement agencies and Municipal Courts to crack down on illegal tree activities, with fines of up to R327 000 per tree.

The penalties will depend on factors such as the tree’s size, species, age, location, health, and heritage value.

Johannesburg’s ‘green lungs’

JCPZ said Johannesburg’s tree canopy is crucial for mitigating climate change, improving air quality and providing aesthetic and other health benefits to the city’s dense population.

“The removal of healthy trees has far-reaching implications on food security and has the potential to harm birdlife, plants, and the city’s already threatened biodiversity,” the City said in a statement.

“Green lungs play a critical role in improving the well-being and health of people living in cities.”

As such, JCPZ has encouraged Johannesburg residents to take alternative measures, such as covering pools and bagging leaves for collection or composting.

Do you think residents have a right to trim back obstructive public trees?

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