Between 1990 and 2010 Argentina lost 15.5% of its forest cover, or around 5,393,000 hectares according to the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations. In a world of ever-shrinking forests even on tree can make a difference. So when the municipal government of San Isidro decided to tear up the Bosque Alegre without so much as a word beforehand, it inevitably brought forth an outcry from local activists.
The 4-hectare public park is one of the last coastal forests found in the province of Buenos Aires and now half of it is gone. The tranquil town of San Isidro is suddenly not so quiet anymore. The activists are battling the municipal government, which is headed by Gustavo Posse, for the remaining green space.
On 10th May 2011 Posse signed an agreement, which put the forest in the hands of the Club Atlético San Isidro. Soon the calls of more than 200 species of animals changed into the roars and whines of chainsaws as trees came tumbling down. Before anyone could do anything half of the trees lay on the ground leaving a massive gape of where they used to stand.
However, activists haven’t given up hope and now armed with more than 5,000 signatures they are fighting for what remains of the Bosque Alegre.
The Indy decided to hop onto the train and travel to San Idsidro to find out what the locals think about the issue. Portraits by Diego Espinosa.
Dora Enceña, 47, housewife, San Isidro
“For me forests are very important and it’s just terrible that they’ve cut down [half] the forest. We need to preserve the forests for many reasons. It is important that communities have green spaces because it is a place where people can go to relax and enjoy themselves in a quiet area. It is also good for the environment and in general the atmosphere of a city. It was very wrong that the government didn’t tell us beforehand what they were doing. They should have asked the city their opinion or whether or not we wanted this to happen. We have a right to know what is happening to out public spaces, especially the forests. Towns need forests and green spaces, there is no other way of putting it, we need them. As for whether or not the activists will be successful I am not sure, I don’t know how they can do it.”
Ricardo Pelfort, 67, retired, San Isidro
“This is a government that is very privatised. It is a government that favours private corporations over everything else. There is no interest in maintaining anything that does not make a profit. They don’t care about the trees. They don’t have any interest in protecting them if cutting them down will eventually earn them money. It’s sad because the trees are a symbol of life, they grow here along the river or in the middle of the city and they help clean the environment. There is no life without them. They clean the water and the air and we need both of those to live. Many people don’t have another place to go and relax and enjoy nature in the middle of the city. We need public green spaces like this. People who have a lot of money can go to the closed parks but if you don’t have money where are you going to go? It’s really sad what the government has taken away from its people.”
Marisol Sota, 25, store sales rep, San Fernando
“I do not agree with the decision of the government to cut down the trees. It took them so many years to grow and now the government has just come along and cut them down. It is very bad. We need trees to clean the air in our atmosphere. We need them to change the carbon dioxide into oxygen, they are absolutely necessary especially in a city. It is important to have these green spaces so that all the poison that gets pumped into the atmosphere from cars is turned into oxygen. Unfortunately, when it comes to the activists I am not sure if they can win against a government. They aren’t the first group to try to stand up against them and most people are unsuccessful. But now it is not important whether or not the public was informed before the government cut them down. What is important now is the remaining trees. We need to focus on them and not what has happened, we can’t change that.”
Dario Deschamps, 35, Tren de La Costa employee, Tigre
“What the government did I believe is really bad. They should have spoken with the neighbours who live in this community. Whenever they want to modify something they should have to talk to the residents. The people who live here have a right to green spaces that are free to the public. They should have a right to go somewhere green with their children but the government’s only interest is money. Today they don’t think about what is healthy and safe but instead of money. It is a disrespect of the environment and the general public. There are green spaces in the greater city of Buenos Aires but there are not that many anymore. There is an urban explosion and because of this we are losing spaces to offices and housing, it is the same story in Tigre. For many reasons we need these large green spaces. We need to respect the local fauna and flora as well, but this will totally modify it. How can people learn about it and learn to respect it if the government doesn’t? I think this fight is important because it is a fight for the environment and the neighbours rights.”
Edith Robles, 50, Tren de La Costa employee, Boccar
“I think it is bad. The trees help us breath, we need them for the oxygen that is necessary for us to live. We contaminate the air and they clean it for us, and then we just chop them all down. We need green spaces, the entire planet needs trees, we need them to live. How can it be put any simpler? They didn’t make this decision public and I think that is very wrong. They should have spoken to the public to find out what our opinion was of cutting down the forest. Then they should have made a decision, but only after asking the people who live here. I also agree with what the activists are doing. I don’t think it’s too later. They can still save the trees that are still standing and just in general bring more awareness to the entire issue of deforestation.”