Environmental Hazards and Negligence in Havana’s Vedado Neighborhood

Lynn Cruz

Calle 19 between E and F, Vedado.

HAVANA TIMES — At a time when the country still hasn’t recovered from the many losses it suffered when hurricane Irma swept through last September, the national forestry authority, as well as members of Havana’s urban planning department, have decided to contribute to the environmental and urban ruin of the capital’s Vedado neighborhood.

This morning, when we were walking down 19th street, several trees that had been cut down were being picked up by trucks from the city’s Green Areas service.

Ficus trees are a feature of this neighborhood’s original design and they have gradually disappeared as a result of the authorities’ neglect.

A lot of the time, the decision to cut them down comes from the Green Areas service itself, while other times it comes from neighbors who don’t have the means to prune them properly and, over time, tree roots have raised the pavement in front of their homes.

However, these trees coexisted harmoniously within the urban design.  The Ficus trees are being replaced by palm trees or others which don’t even provide shade, as well as being visually incoherent.

On the other hand, building works on a house on my block (calle 13 e/ 4 y 6) started nearly a year ago to transform it into a building. According to what my neighbors have been able to find out, apartments there will be given to tourism managers.

The House on 13th Street with the two trees threatened with being eliminated.

I remember that this building project began when shacks were being built for those who were affected by hurricane Irma, plus building materials weren’t being sold at that time. Ever since then, building materials have been plentiful to bring this apparently priority project to life, no shortage of sand, cement, etc. 

Renovations to this building included building a wall, which stretches across from the gate at the front of the house and runs parallel to another wall which goes around the entire property.

Yesterday, an absurd decision caught my attention. One of the workers broke down a part of the wall (which had been completed a few weeks back) with a sledgehammer. Rumor has it that they will knock it all down. (Watch the video below).

According to one of my other neighbors, they have now decided to make a second garage entrance. In order to do that, they will need to also cut down two ficus trees which are located in front of the house.

That is to say, the Government is authorizing these two trees to be cut down, which are the heart and soul of this block today, because all of the others have already been cut down.

Who is responsible for the decision to build a wall with supposedly scarce materials and then knock it down?

How will they justify this negligent management of public funds, while social problems and a lack of attention and security become worse for the people who really need the materials?

How can an inspector fine a neighbor who makes changes to their facade if the State isn’t setting an example itself?

Nevertheless, there is a group of residents who are writing letters to different urban authorities, as they are determined to fight for these trees, which have stood there since before they were born.

Lynn Cruz

It's not art that imitates life, its life that imitates art," said Oscar Wilde. And art always goes a step further. I am an actress and writer. For me, art, especially writing, is a way of exorcising demons. It is something intimate. However, I decided to write journalism because I realized that I did not exist. In Cuba, only the people authorized by the government have the right to express themselves publicly. Havana Times is an example of coexistence within a democracy and since I consider myself a democrat, my dream is to integrate this publication’s philosophy into the reality of my country.

3 thoughts on “Environmental Hazards and Negligence in Havana’s Vedado Neighborhood

  • The actions reflect the lack of environmental concerns. Remember that trees were cut down just to suit an hotel very close to the Capitolia. Obviously whoever did it had the approval of the regime.

  • Thank you for speaking up about this issue. Cutting trees should be the last resource when everything else fails. Pruning the trees periodically should be the way to go in most cases. Ficus trees are an essential part of the Vedado soul, while also adding beauty and providing shade for passers by; and even more importantly, they generate the oxygen we ll need to breathe and help cleanse the city… it’s a true shame that all these facts are being disregarded.

    I hope your voice and your article contribute to bringing more awareness and stopping these outrageous cutting.

  • A most wonderfull and sad story….you are indeed a gifted writer.

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