Six people were seriously injured in October at Harare’s Mbare Musika after a tree was brought down by heavy winds and trapped vendors who were selling their wares.
In another incident, a house in Avenues area was damaged by a falling tree. There have also been incidents in which trees have fallen across electricity lines thereby interfering with electricity supplies.
When heavy rains fell last week, motorists could be seen trying to remove fallen trees which had made the roads almost inaccessible resulting in congestion.
Most trees in the capital were planted during colonial times and the council has failed to replenish the trees and replace the aged ones with the new plants.
As the country marks the National Tree Planting Day, most people said they felt old trees were now a danger and this should also be captured on Tree Planting Day.
Trees — mostly exotic ones — in Harare are now death traps owing to their age. People who spoke to Newsday said they now feared for their lives following the incident in Mbare.
“We live in perpetual fear walking in the streets especially where there are old jacaranda trees because they can fall any time.
I saw a tree branch falling at the Parirenyatwa Hospital area and one driver was forced to react swiftly otherwise the tree would have crashed onto his car,” said Annamore Rusendo, a Harare resident.
Motorists have also expressed concern saying trees along major roads have become a major cause for concern.
“We constantly drive in fear especially during the rainy season as trees can fall any time and, as witnessed last week on Friday (26 November), trees fall during hail storms,” said a motorist, Glad Maoko.
Residents in suburbs with many aged gigantic trees said it was a common phenomenon to see fallen trees, but in most cases people are lucky as there would be no fatalities.
“Whenever there are heavy winds and hailstorms, it is common to see many fallen trees on roads or roadsides,” said a Milton Park resident.
Last year, Harare City Council embarked on a massive tree planting project, but failed to protect the trees, most of which had since been destroyed . . . Tree-planting in the capital had been haphazard while the few planted trees failed to receive due attention.
Housing and Community Services director Justin Chivavaya, who was co-ordinating the project, felt shortchanged by motorists and pedestrians.
“I appeal to residents to help keep the trees. It is for their benefit. We are playing our part and they should play theirs,” he said.
Some of the newly-planted trees were uprooted, broken or trampled upon. Chivavaya acknowledged the conflicting demands of Harare motorists in relation to trees and parking space.
“In urban areas there is bound to be a conflict between parking space and tree planting. Motorists should realise they need trees to provide them with shade.
“Trees help to absorb gases emitted by vehicles. A clean environment begets a healthy people.
“The city will obviously have to redraw street parking bays on affected roads,” he said.
He said the type of trees being planted has no effect on city buildings as the roots go down as opposed to spreading. Chivavaya said besides climate change mitigation effects, trees helped to beautify the environment.
However, it is danger posed by ageing trees which has irked many residents who feel the council should start by replacing the old trees if they are sincere with their “greening” projects.
City Council’s public relations manager Leslie Gwindi recently said it was common for trees to be uprooted by hailstorms, but urged people to contact the City’s Tree Cutting Unit if they felt a tree posed potential dangers.
Until the relevant authorities address the issue of ageing trees, people are encouraged not to take cover from the rain under trees and motorists should exercise extra caution when driving along roads with huge aged trees.