Opinion: Save our trees

Anawut Prapunwong, 41, is a chairman and landscape architect of Oriental Vista Co Ltd, and the president of Phuket’s Big Tree Club, which was established on March 5 last year. He graduated from Chulalongkorn University with a bachelor’s degree in landscape architecture and has been president of the club since its inception.

The Big Tree Club is a sub-club of the Big Tree Project in Bangkok. Its main objective is to encourage the government to create ordinances that will protect trees, and to instill knowledge in local residents of the importance of protecting nature.

Here, Mr Anawut talks about the importance of preserving nature, especially trees, and how his club tries to help change the way local residents think about conservation.

PHUKET: Protecting nature, especially our trees, is very important for Phuket, as well as the entire country. We live with nature. If we destroy it, we destroy ourselves.

Protecting it is imperative for the sake of our economy, the environment and our daily lives and health. We all know that we will live better lives in healthier natural surroundings, but many of us don’t help to keep it safe and alive.

Past generations conserved nature for us, so we need to conserve – better yet, improve – our environment for the next generation, so that they can live sustainable lives. Do we live only for our sake, or do we care about the sake of our children and their children?

Protecting nature is even more important for Phuket, as it is a popular tourist destination. The Tourism Authority of Thailand promotes Phuket as a beautiful and natural island. Truthfully, do we really preserve the trees that are shown in photographs and brochures? Tourists come to Phuket because it is a beautiful place with stunning landscapes. If we kill off our natural surroundings, they will not come back.

This is why the Big Tree Club vows to teach people about conserving our trees and nature.

Protecting trees is everyone’s duty, not just that of a specific group. However, people commonly believe that looking out for the well-being of trees is none of their concern, or that they do not have the authority to do so. Some do not even try because they know that they cannot do it alone. We should change this way of thinking. We must lead by example. If we do it, others will follow.

We work as a group to instill knowledge in local people relating to the value of trees and the importance of protecting them. We encourage people to work together to protect all trees in public and government areas, and even those on private land.

The Big Tree Club looks after all trees, whether they are protected or not. The government takes care of protected trees, so no one cares about the unprotected ones. Therefore, we must care for them all. All trees are beneficial for us. Humans and animals alike thrive in and benefit from a healthy natural environment. We are all part of the same world.

Most members of the club are landscape architects. Our jobs are very much entwined with nature, so we decided to be advocates for it.

All projects we are paid to do are environmentally friendly. We try to design our projects in a way that maintains harmony between humans and nature. We never cut down trees and never support any projects that destroy nature. We also encourage other architects to think in this way.

We co-operate with all administrative bodies, like Tambon Administration Organizations (OrBorTor), the Phuket Provincial Administration Organization (PPAO) and the municipalities.

Recently, we teamed up with Phuket City Municipality and planned a two rai public park, that will be situated near a PPAO School. We are now raising the funds needed for this project.

The Big Tree Club is just a small group. We do not have the authority to do many things. However, we can encourage others to think like we do and have a true love and respect for nature.

In my 15 years here in Phuket, I have seen it change so much. People have destroyed nature for their own benefit. Nai Yang, Kata, Karon and Promthep Cape used to be covered in trees, but now they have been cleared out to make space for concrete buildings. I am very concerned about the future of Phuket. We must all work together to make the change.

At the Big Tree Club, we have set out to protect nature and prevent its destruction, rather than abandoning it and waiting to solve the problem afterward.

Anyone is welcome to join the Big Tree Club. Please join the Facebook groups for both the Phuket Big Tree Club and the Bangkok Big Tree Project to take part in protecting the nation’s trees.

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