A 76-year-old Brussels woman is desperate to see a small green space disappear behind her apartment building. For her, “it brings life”. The municipality has other projects for the area, but it will still have trees, which are more important than you think in the city. Explanations.
The climate and the environment are on everyone’s lips. Leaders talk a lot, act little or not always convincingly. The citizens, for their part, see the damage. And sometimes, they get carried away, like Claudine, who contacted the editorial staff of RTL info. For her, we are not going in the right direction. “At a time when the whole world is talking about ecology, here in Etterbeek, everything is tearing up and we are making a desert of concrete“, she wrote to us in a… handwritten letter (there is not only the orange button Alert us).
“Why are we demolishing everything?”
Claudine, 76, lives on rue Général Henry, in Etterbeek, a town in Brussels. Behind the large building where she occupies an apartment, there was a small green space. “Full of greenery, trees, a small playground. It was a parking lot, too, but there were trees, a hedge, etc. It all gave oxygen. And there were little birds, in March-April, when they came to pull everything. Sparrows, blackbirds, crows. In short, there was life. Now there is nothing“, regrets this local resident by showing us the green space which is now a land plan, soon to be redeveloped.”It takes 40 years to have beautiful trees, and here in 40 minutes it was all gone“.
This area behind several blocks of buildings and houses, “It’s like a circus: the noise and the heat, everything rises. In summer, it is already very quickly 28 degrees in the apartments. We were happy to have this green area, and a large tree that extended up to on the 11th floor. What’s it going to be next summer? Will we be 35 degrees all summer? “
Which also annoys Claudine, “is that we say that we have to plant more trees, so why are we here demolishing everything?“Our witness is”very sad” and “so desperate “ she has “filled his living room and balcony with plants” :
“Do not panic“, says the town
We spoke with Vincent De Wolf, the mayor of Etterbeek. “General Henry, this is a neighborhood that had been a bit neglected for a long time. We got a federal subsidy“, and indeed,”the planning permit provided for the removal of a certain number of trees: it was concerted, it was communicated“.
The rest is not as dark as Claudine fears. “Don’t panic: the trees that are removed will be replaced, and we will practically multiply them by three“.
Furthermore, “these are the usual rules: when removing trees in a garden or on public roads, the authority must issue a permit“. Either an urban planning permit within the framework of a real estate or redevelopment project (it is then the Brussels town planning administration which makes the decisions), or an order of the mayor in the case of a urgent situation.
Because managing trees is not trivial. “Unfortunately, on avenue de Tervuren, a large branch fell on a car, killing the occupants … Trees, sometimes, suffer from diseases, so they have to be cut down urgently.“, concludes Vincent De Wolf. But he insists:”Here in Etterbeek, the rule is that we must replant at least the same number of trees that we cut down“.
Are green spaces in the city essential?
“We cut down a lot of trees, also in the cities“, notes Amandine Tiberghien, project manager at Natagora, an association for the defense of the environment. In town,”a tree will be used to capture heavy metals that may be in the air. It also helps to solidify the soil, ensuring that the earth does not tumble down all the time. For example, when there are major floods as we have known, having hedges and trees helps to fix the soil, and prevent water from flowing towards urbanized areas where it is heavily concreted.“. What’s more, “and scientifically we have all the elements to prove it, seeing trees, having a view of a tree from your balcony, it does us good“.
For Natagora, “you need the right tree in the right place“, so “sometimes, yes, you have to cut down trees, for example an old tree in a school“. Most “trees are our historical heritage, and sometimes we cut them down a little too quickly“.
The association recalls that there are bigger environmental issues in Brussels. We also met Amandine in front of the Josaphat wasteland. “It is a natural and wild space, which developed on a former railway wasteland. It represents a very specific biological quality: there are ponds, grasses, trees. This diversity means that there are plenty of species that can develop and coexist, it has become a real green lung for city life, it is a very important space for pollinators (bees, etc.)“.