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City Parks is growing the urban forest that is Johannesburg through planting trees. It is also teaching people about the value of the environment.
TREES are the longest living organisms on the planet and one of Earth’s greatest natural resources, so it only seems right that Johannesburg City Parks continuously plants them.

Executive mayor Amos masondo plants a tree in SowetoExecutive mayor Amos Masondo plants a tree in SowetoCity Parks’ service delivery mainly consists of development, maintenance and conservation of public open space and the natural environment, greening of the city, and securing of burial space for the future.
As a non-cost recovery business, City Parks is committed to bridging the green divide between the disadvantaged townships and the suburbs. It is also responsible for providing inclusive open spaces and serves all Joburg residents.

The aim, according to Alan Buff, the technical support manager and a horticulturist at City Parks, is to “continue the thrust of planting”.

Over the past four to five years, the entity has planted about 200 000 trees – and it aims to plant a further 300 000 over the next five years.

Buff says people should not use the fact that trees require a lot of water as an obstacle when wanting to plant but instead, they should use water collected after rains and after washing dishes for watering their trees.

Trees are important to the environment. They help to keep the air supply clean, reduce noise pollution, improve water quality, help prevent erosion, provide food and building materials, create shade and help beautify landscapes.

Buff says that in Johannesburg, areas from Turffontein to Randburg have 16 to 30 percent of trees, while areas in the south of the city have only five to 6 percent of trees.

Beginnings
Joburg started life as a small shanty town in 1886, with the discovery of gold. By 1888, the Braamfontein Cemetery had been opened, followed by Joubert Park; by 1903, the city had 10 parks and one cemetery. More than a century later, it has transformed into an urban forest with about 10 million trees and more than 2 000 developed parks.

City Parks grows its own treesCity Parks grows its own treesCity Parks works towards a greener environment and is committed to upholding and maintaining “green areas”, ensuring Joburg remains one of the greenest cities in the world. Of its 10 million trees, more than 1,6 million are planted along roadsides and on pavements; about two million are in parks, cemeteries, nature reserves and conservation areas; and the remainder are in private gardens.
In 2004, these were estimated to be worth about R13-billion.

Buff notes that in 1992, the City issued an evaluation system. By putting a value to its trees, Joburg aimed to teach people not to chop trees down because “trees are of value to the environment”.

Greening projects
Some of Joburg’s trees date back to the early 1900s. In those days, street trees were only planted in white areas; trees were only planted in Soweto from the 1950s. This imbalance has changed in recent years, and tree planting in formerly disadvantaged communities has become a priority. In 2006 and 2007, City Parks planted 21 653 trees, compared to the 3 578 that were planted the year before.

The Greening Soweto project, launched in 2006 with the planting of 6 000 trees, is Joburg’s biggest green revolution. It aims to turn the vast, dusty township into an urban forest.

City Parks grows its own trees and supplies them to communities for greening projects. Its nursery produces up to 100 000 tree seedlings per year; at five years, these seedlings are ready for planting on pavements and in parks.

Other City Parks projects are planting trees to mark births and deaths; educating people about the importance of planting trees; upgrading Delta Park, one of the biggest open spaces in Joburg; and its newest fund raiser, the Green Concert.

Environmental education

City Parks' environmental education departmentCity Parks' environmental education unit provides environmental awareness programmesThe utility also has an environmental education unitwhere each year more than 28 000 learners are taught about the importance of creating a healthier life.
The unit focuses on reaching residents with the message that they need to change the way they are living and leave a healthier environment behind.

It has three core focus areas. Firstly, the unit invites school groups to attend education awareness programmes at either of three environmental centres – the Dorothy Nyembe Environmental Education Centre in Soweto, the Johannesburg Botanical Gardens Environmental Education Centre in Emmarentia and the Rietfontein Environmental Education Centre in Paulshof.

It also deals with a wide range of environmental issues from curriculum-based topics such as animal classification, through waste and water, to biodiversity issues.

The unit’s second area of focus is on communities, with numerous awareness raising programmes that directly address environmental issues in a specific ward in which the unit works. An example of this includes illegal dumping and wetland degradation.

Finally, the unit is involved in capacity building. This is achieved through empowering people to take action within their communities for the betterment of the environment, such as growing food gardens and setting up feeding schemes.

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