A new initiative centred on creating and protecting forests as well as uniting peoples is fast becoming a Balkan exercise in co-operation.
By Misko Taleski for Southeast European Times in Skopje -- 25/11/11
Macedonians celebrated Tree Day by planting nearly six million trees. [Misko Taleski/SETimes]
Citizens planted nearly six million trees in over 400 locations throughout Macedonia as part of the Tree Day -- Plant Your Future event Wednesday (November 23rd). An estimated 250,000 people participated.
Internationally-renowned opera singer Boris Trajanov, who established Tree Day, told SETimes the event has gained such popularity it may well turn into a pan-European, and, he hopes, a global ecological holiday in coming years.
"This project raises awareness so that citizens act to protect and improve the environment long-term by planting and nurturing trees. It also enables Macedonia to make so far symbolic steps to bring closer the Balkan and other peoples," Trajanov said.
He explained that he conceived of the idea after witnessing the catastrophic fires in Macedonia and the region in 2006 and 2007. Moved by the apocalyptic scenes, he spontaneously told the media that a day of mourning should be proclaimed for the decimated forests, and appealed for mass foresting of "naked" hills and valleys.
The statement hit a nerve and awakened many who tried to contact him. Soon, Trajanov established a citizens' initiative, an association, with an ever growing network of supporters. "But instead of a day of mourning, we established a day of joy for the new and future forests," he said.
Democratic Renewal of Macedonia (DOM), a green party in the ruling coalition, supports this and similar initiatives because they contribute to ensuring a more secure future for the environment and the people.
"Knowing that one ten-year-old tree produces daily oxygen sufficient for one person, we are cognizant that planting new trees is more than necessary," DOM President Ljiljana Popovska told SETimes.
Popovska said DOM wants to see this initiative extend to cities where the concentration of people and pollution is greater.
Last year, at the Conference on Climate Change in Copenhagen, the Balkan countries accepted Macedonia's proposal to turn Tree Day into a regional project.
"We obtained agreement from six Balkan states to organise Tree Day jointly as 'Balkan Tree Day'. This will create a different, more positive Balkan image. Instead of associating us with conflict, the region will be known as a leader in planting trees, a defender of the eco-system," Trajanov said.
Prior to the Copenhagen decision, on March 30th, foresting took place in 14 Macedonian border regions, including the municipalities of Peshkopeja in Albania; Polikastro and Aksiopoli in Greece; Strumjani and Kustendil in Bulgaria.
Foresting in Macedonia is conducted by the public company Macedonian Forests and it has included Tree Day as part of its action plan. This year, the company celebrates the UN decision to proclaim 2011 as the International Year of the Forests via Tree Day.
"Of the already planted 38 million trees, over 65% have been successful -- an excellent percentage in foresting. The European standards consider an average of 35% successful. In the first years the planting had a smaller percentage of success, but now we have a comprehensive approach and achieve a greater quality," Macedonian Forests Director Zharko Karadzoski told SETimes.
Karadzoski explained Macedonian authorities plan to export ready-to-plant trees to regional countries because many do not have enough seeds and other required planting materials.
"Macedonian Forests possesses enough forest tree material and is ready to assist other countries, primarily Kosovo and Bulgaria, to help enliven the project. Still, the countries should first address the issue legally, in line with established practices of mutual co-operation," Karadzoski said.
Authorities estimate that including the last Tree Day, citizens have planted 44 million trees.
Macedonia treats its forests as a national treasure and heritage protected by the constitution. The country has signed and ratified numerous international agreements and conventions that affect the forestry sector.
Although conceived and organised by the civil sector, Tree Day has continually been supported by the Macedonian government, including all ministries, the Agency for Local Self-government, municipalities and the public company Macedonian Forests.
This year, ambassadors serving in Macedonia also participated in Tree Day.