National

Tokyo residents' petition prompts reconsideration of plan to fell trees

by Tomoko Otake

Staff Writer

Tokyo’s Chiyoda Ward will reconsider plans to cut down 37 trees lining a street ahead of the 2020 Olympics, officials said Wednesday, after local residents blasted the plan in a petition.

The policy change came after a committee of the Chiyoda Ward Assembly deliberated on the petition Monday, concluding that the ward must change its plan to remove 32 ginkgo and seven platanus trees along a 1.4-km stretch of Kanda Keisatsu Street in the Jimbocho area.

“We will consider, as soon as possible, how we can review the existing plan so we can conserve the trees,” ward official Keisuke Minegishi said Wednesday.

The ward will have arborists examine the condition of the trees so they can be properly maintained. It will also request that the Tokyo Metropolitan Government, which currently plans to cut down other trees in the ward along another road, Hakusan Street, put a halt to that project, Minegishi said.

Locals have voiced opposition to removing the trees, which the ward had said was necessary to widen sidewalks to make more room for cyclists and pedestrians.

The plan has sparked an online protest campaign on change.org, which has garnered nearly 40,000 signatures so far.

According to the original plan, the ward had been scheduled to cut a total of 300 trees — including the 37 on Kanda Keisatsu Street — that dot three major roads ahead of the Olympics.

Michiko Ai, who heads the Group to Protect Streetside Trees in Chiyoda, submitted the petition to the ward assembly and was also the driving force behind an online protest campaign. She hailed the policy shift, but said the group will continue to keep a close eye on its progress, as the ward has left open the possibility of cutting down some trees.

The fate of the remaining 263 trees also remains unclear, though Ai was unambiguous in her group’s position.

“We see zero need for any of the trees to be cut,” she said.

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