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News 14 Apr 17

Macedonia's Grim Winter Condemns Pricey Palms to Death

In what many see as yet another example of the government's frivolous attitude to spending, most of the expensive palms imported from China and planted to bring a 'tropical feel' to the Macedonian capital have died.

Sinisa Jakov Marusic
BIRN
Macedonia
Dead palm trees in central Skopje. Photo: BIRN

In one what some might see as an apt symbol of Macedonia's current difficulties, over a hundred palm trees planted in Skopje two years ago - and designed to bring a touch of tropical warmth to the city -  have perished in the harsh winter cold.

"We checked all the palms one by one and unfortunately we can say that only some 10 per cent, 13 out of 128 trees, have survived," Dusan Avirovic, head of Skopje's public enterprise in charge of the city's greenery, said.

He said the particular sort of palms bought by the government, imported from China, were not suitable for Skopje's continental climate.  The sheets wrapped around the palms, he said, were not enough to protect the plants from long periods of freezing temperatures.

The Skopje palms were part of a half-million-euro worth procurement intended to beautify not only the capital but other towns across the country.

The hefty price paid for the 1,100 palms by one of the poorest countries in Europe quickly drew criticism and mockery. The foolish procurement has since became a synonymous with the VMRO DPMNE-led government's irrational spending.

The planting of the pricey but unsuitable palms has inevitably been compared to the much more expensive, ongoing government-financed revamp of the capital in the style of Classical Antiquity known as "Skopje 2014".

"Since they were brought to us, the palms were half-dead. We had to use liquid fertilizer to keep them alive. The timing when we received them, in August, was also inappropriate. It was a real miracle that only four of them died after the first winter," Avirovic explained.

Agro-meteorologist Angelko Angeleski recently told Radio MOF that Macedonia's climate was absolutely wrong for this sort of plant.

"The climate was the real culprit. Palm trees are tropical plants and should be planted in tropical areas, where they have more temperate and moist weather," he explained.

He said that neither Macedonia's cold winters, nor the scorching heat during the summer, was right for this particular type of vegetation.

The public enterprise, "Macedonian Forests", which carried out the procurement with government money and distributed the palms to various towns was unavailable for comment on Thursday.

Experts have meanwhile warned that the palms in other towns have started dying as well.

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