NOSThe streetscape of Casablanca
NOS Nieuws•vandaag, 06:43
From Fes to Casablanca, Moroccan cities are full of palm trees. An unsuspecting tourist would think it is the most normal thing in the world. But these exotics don’t belong here at all. In fact, they even cause problems. They provide little shade and absorb much less CO2 than deciduous trees. Landscape architect Salima Belemkaddem of action group Maroc Environnement 2050 in Casablanca is trying to turn the tide.
Belemkaddem is sounding the alarm now that the Moroccan cities are getting warmer due to climate change and water is becoming increasingly scarce in Morocco. She is very concerned about her hometown of Casablanca. That is why she wants the local government to plant more deciduous trees in the city.
“Deciduous trees provide shade, convert more CO2 into oxygen and retain more rainwater,” she explains. Everything that a palm tree does less well. The fact that Moroccan city councils still prefer palm trees also has practical reasons. After the first years of life of the palm trees, they need less water than deciduous trees and maintenance is a lot easier and cheaper.
NOSLandschapsarchitecte Salima Belemkaddem
The Washingtonia palms imported from the United States are especially popular. Palms are not authentic Moroccan at all, says Belemkaddem. “Palm tree planting was introduced by the French colonizer. They wanted to make the cities look like famous cities, like California in the US.”
But according to Belemkaddem, the imported trees are not at all resistant to the salty seawater of the Atlantic Ocean. “The Washingtonia palms were chosen at random and don’t belong here at all.”
The continued demand for American trees has created a thriving market in Morocco. Arborist Youssef Ouachouach also sees that these palms are still popular. According to him, not only the government purchases these trees, but they are also popular among private individuals.
He advises the government to bring more biodiversity to the city. “We should try to preserve the unique character of our cities by making use of our rich heritage of indigenous trees and plants. I hope that we will work more with these species in Morocco and import fewer trees from abroad.”
NOSBoomkweker Youssef Ouachouach
Casablanca Deputy Mayor Ahmed Afilal El Alami Idrissi acknowledges the problem. According to him, the shortage of water that the city is facing is one of the obstacles to the large-scale planting of deciduous trees that use more water than palms. “We’ve come to the point where we need to make an informed choice between watering the city’s residents or spraying plants.”
Idrissi emphasizes that the city council has already started several projects to plant more deciduous trees. For example, there is the ‘A tree for every family’ project, with which Casablanca should be one million deciduous trees richer by 2027. According to the driver, it is unthinkable that the city will completely ban palm trees. “The palm tree is part of the colonial history of the city. It has become a cultural heritage.”
NosLoco-burgemeester Ahmed Afilal El Alami Idrissi