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news 10 Jul 13

Serbian Greens Win Battle to Save Ancient Oak

Serbian environmentalists have forced the government to revise its plans to fell a 600-year-old oak, which was to make way for a new highway.

Bojana Barlovac
BIRN
Belgrade

Serbian Construction Minister Velimir Ilic said the Ministry had found a solution to keep a 600-year-old oak tree, which was threatened by plans to build the Corridor 11 highway.

Ilic said both the tree and the highway could co-exist by placing steel casing around the oak.

"We'll make a big footbridge on both sides [of the highway] so that dry branches do not fall on the highway and endanger traffic," he said.

“The asphalt will be completely separated with a concrete reinforced bracket so that the road does not damage the roots, or the roots the asphalt," Ilic said.

According to the minister, the tree will be watered through artificial irrigation and be protected from exhaust by glass.

Environmentalists launched a campaign to save the tree after the government decided on the route for Corridor 11, the highway that will connect Belgrade to the southern Adriatic.

For many locals, the 40-metre-high oak is a sacred tree around which, in the absence of a church, people gathered to pray for generations.

They believe that spirits dwell in it and that whoever cuts down the tree will suffer from a terrible curse.

More than 5,000 people signed the petition against cutting it down.

Under the name "The oak tree cannot fall!" the Serbian green party and Optimist GM, an NGO, gathered several hundred people to protest against the plan in the western town of Gornji Milanovac.

The European Green Party, EGP, said it supported the protest.

“Structural development must never come at the expense of environmental and cultural heritage,”  Jacqueline Cremers, the party’s secretary general, said.

The party called on the authorities to re-evaluate their plan and re-route the highway if need be.

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