The Councilor for the Environment, Miguel Angel Fernandez, said that work had begun last Thursday on the removal of both dead pine trees and trees affected by the disease ‘tomicus destruens,’ which is spread by one of the most destructive shoot-feeding beetles in northern Europe.

Following a recent survey by environmentalists from the Orihuela town hall the work was awarded to the company Tragsa.

The lack of rain in recent months has intensified its spread and the change of appearance of many of the slopes like the Sierra de la Muela which has turned from green to gray.

The forecast suggests that this first phase will be completed during the next two months costing an investment of 58,000 euros. Once complete it is expected that a further phase will then be authorised  that will leave the surrounding hills clean and prepared for Reforestation.

The area where the initial work is being carried out is that closest to the N340, a road through the which thousands of vehicles travel daily and one in which there is a clear danger of falling trees. The heavy traffic further increases the risk of fires in the area.

A spokesman said that the work is expected to intensify this week with the addition of more staff and the arrival of a ‘spider machine’, that crushes the cut branches’in situ’ turning the pines into a vegetative cover that is used in the recovery of the land, as it retains humidity and many generates nutrients.

City planners are already working with the Ministry of the Environment in the implementation of a pilot project in the area of La Aparecida which involves planting not only pines, but a number of indigenous species that may be more resistant to Long periods of drought such as those from which the area regularly suffers.

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