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Editorial

Earth balling is a misleading remedy

/ 06:47 AM July 28, 2012

Was it a case of putting its foot in the mouth when the environment department considered earth balling as an option to save century-old trees in danger of being cut down by a road widening project in the Naga–Carcar highway?

Any self-respecting forester would think twice about earth balling trees that old with basal diameters of more than one meter.

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For starters, the process involves removing a tree by digging out the soil and roots in a circular shape, leaving most of the root system undisturbed and intact. The size of the earth ball to be dug up is usually directly proportional to the size of the tree – the bigger the tree, the bigger the ball.

Earth balling these huge trees along the highway may mean destroying the concrete pavement itself as the root system of these old acacia trees may have gone deep and wide.

This is just half the problem.

As former Cebu City Councilor Sylvan “Jack” Jakosalem said in his letter to President Aquino, the road widening project is “useless.”

He said over-speeding was a more serious problem in that stretch and that traffic density is focused around the cities of Naga and Carcar. As chairman of Cebu City’s chief traffic management council, Jakosalem has the gravitas to talk about vehicular traffic and road sense. So why spend millions to widen a country road?

It’s an oft-repeated slice of political humor. Politicians favor public works project so much they even create rivers to justify building a bridge.

If the environment department allows earth-balling, it’s a virtual death sentence for Carcar-Naga heritage trees. For this, representatives of the Guiness Book of World Record should be invited as witnesses.

Unlike the the attempt to make the record for the longest human chain of roadside tree planters on August 25, 2006 in the Caraga region, this time, it would be for sheer foolishness – or just greed.

Granting that miracles happen and the trees are uprooted and transferred, the high mortality rate of earth balling trees that old doesn’t justify the risky operation.

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With forests already so few and scarcely populated, the acacia trees in the Naga-Carcar highway have become part of our natural heritage. They are irreplaceable.

Not just because they are old per se, but because they were planted during the American era where Cebu’s first Cabinet member was none other than Cebu Gov. Dionisio Jakosalem, Secretary of Commerce.

To remove those leafy monuments that provide beauty, a sense of history and dignity to south Cebu, would be an act of criminal incompetence on the part government engineers , foresters, and their patrons.

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