Councillor Chris Mbanga was presented with a box of tree roots at a council meeting last month by Ward 8 constituent, Mrs Reenie Ager.
Ager presented the roots to Cllr. Mbanga to demonstrate the damage done by a major telecoms company that was trenching in her neighbourhood to lay fibre optic cable.
The box of roots, some of which were more than 10 cm in diameter, had been cut from one side of trees on the road where Ager lives, raising her concern that this would render them unhealthy and unstable.
When confronting the diggers and their supervisor, Ager’s concerns were not heard, and her gathering of tree roots was met first with suspicion and then irritation. “They did not care about chopping off the roots and they were so spiteful that they only left one root to support the tree. Their supervisor on the scene was arrogant and ignorant of the issue,” she said.
Many trees in the city are already unstable as evidenced by a very dangerous fall in May of this year. Chinese nationals Nan Lee and his daughter narrowly escaped death as an enormous jacaranda on Josiah Chinamano Avenue crashed onto their car. His efforts to get compensation from council have been unsuccessful to date.
Incidents like this raise questions about the wellbeing of our trees, the city’s lungs, and as pointed out by Ager, indiscriminately chopping their roots will surely contribute to future tree falls whilst ultimately affecting our city’s air and aesthetics too.
Head of engineering at City of Harare, Engineer Philip Pfukwa said, “we are coming up with ways to regulate the trenching and one of the rules for telecoms companies is to lay four or more vacant fibre cables that will be used by any telecoms company. By so doing we will be avoiding the re-trenching of one place several times.”
On the cutting of tree roots he had this to say: “We had not thought of the environmental impact to that extent but we are putting up measures that will safeguard our nature, we are exploring options of thrust boring and making it an obligation to the telecoms company that they should avoid cutting off roots.”
While telecoms companies avoided official comment, one employee who spoke on condition of anonymity said, “fibre cables don’t have a limit on the amount of data that they can carry so telecoms companies should make a system where they share one fibre cable in a certain area to avoid trenching again.”