Outrage over dismantling of ‘illegal’ urban forest in Madrid

by Deborah Cater
Urban forest dismantled by Madrid City Council

MADRID – An urban forest in the middle of Madrid’s Barajas district is no more. Residents maintained the forest for more than ten years and planted more than 1,500 trees. Without warning and without explanation, the Madrid City Council dismantled the place on 25 November.

It affects four hectares of city park in the centre of the neighbourhood where residents have been responsible for reforestation since 2010. The public administration abandoned the task over a decade ago. On Thursday, November 25, several vans and trucks from Madrid and ten representatives of the municipal gardening team arrived at the site accompanied by six municipal police officers with the aim of removing the ‘urban forest’.

Honour the dead

The urban forest of young oaks, elms and chestnuts is apparently illegal. Residents planted a tree in memory of deceased loved ones because they believe the best way to honour the dead is to sow new life. Retired local residents had a new pastime and maintained the forest.

The neighbourhood association and the local branch of Ecologistas en Acción have denounced the action by the municipality. They also point out the maintenance work by Madrid City Council in this area has “been disastrous”.

According to Ecologistas and Acción, at the time of dismantling, several volunteers were in the forest to carry out the usual maintenance tasks. Accompanying them were people from the Manantial Foundation of the Madrid region, who help every Thursday morning.

Removed protection and irrigation

The municipal team “removed all protection from the trees and shrubs and also confiscated all equipment used for irrigation”. As a result, the trees and young plants of the urban forest have been exposed to rabbit populations that have caused visible damage. In addition, it is not possible to water the trees and plants. This will result in their demise in the summer.

Villa Nova Spain

Labels with the names of the children who planted the trees and installed the birdhouses have also been removed from the trees in the Barajas Forest. The mother of 13-year-old Isaac, who suddenly died while playing football in 2019, found the remains of her son’s memorial tree in a rubbish bin.

Senseless

Ecologistas and Accion and the Barajas Residents’ Association blame the Madrid City Council for “a zero sensitivity in attacking for no good reason a long-lived and successful project so loved in the neighbourhood.”

On November 27, the residents and Ecologistas and Accion, under the slogan ‘The urban forest of Barajas remains’, showed their disapproval of the actions of the Madrid City Council during a demonstration in which 250 took part. A banner read ‘Almeida woodcutter’ with a reference to the current mayor of the Spanish capital.

However, the city council says that it is “a public space that contains unauthorised elements”, sources at the municipality told EFE.  

The irony is, to combat climate change and air pollution, Madrid is creating an urban forest around the city.

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