The Montazah public park in Port Fuad, located across the Suez Canal from Port Said, is suffering from ongoing destruction perpetrated by the local city council.
Between 20 and 25 majestic 30-meter trees, have been systematically cut down for the past two weeks.
Watter al-Bahry, an environmental photographer and resident of Port Said, has taken shots of the century old trees, which now lie on the ground. “These trees had been planted when the city of Port Fuad itself was created, in 1926,” says Bahry.
Initially, the city was established to relieve overcrowding in Port Said, and the engineers working on the construction of the Suez Canal established neighborhoods in both cities with their characteristic wooden houses. In one of Port Fuad oldest neighborhoods, the engineers’ residences were built around the Montazah garden.
Bahry explains that the garden has a historical but also recreational importance, as it was always a great spot for birdwatchers. Because of the city’s strategic location at the junction of the Mediterranean Sea to the North and the Suez Canal to the west, Port Fuad offers an ideal stopover for migrating birds.
“The trees they cut were mostly filao and eucalyptus trees, which absorbed most of the salt that seeped in the underground water and helped maintain a good quality soil and protect the nearby wooden houses,” he says.
According to Bahry, the trees were not sick and did not present any danger to the passersby and the people sitting in their shade. “Someone from the city council told me that they were cutting the trees because they were old and needed to be renewed.”
He was also told that the trimming technique used will allow the trees to grow again, an information that Bahry finds unconvincing after witnessing the new destruction in Montazah.
Another explanation for the destruction of the park that Bahry was given is that cutting the trees would prevent people from doing drugs or having sex in the garden, hidden by the lush vegetation. Having visited this garden on numerous occasions, when it was still safe from human destructive activities, the vegetation was never jungle like, and it is hard to imagine people hiding behind tree trunks to conduct such activities.
At this point, the Port Said-based photographer is worried that the lumberjack will attack the garden’s last two standing Indian Fig trees, in the park that used to be the playground of his childhood.