Back when it was called Stalinabad, former Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin reportedly took a personal interest in the greening of his namesake city, now known as Dushanbe. A massive tree-planting initiative accordingly created a green canopy to shade the capital from Tajikistan’s scorching summers. Today, authorities are cutting down those Stalin-era trees and replacing them with over $4.5 million-worth of imports from Belgium.
This isn’t only a story about trees, of course. For many Dushanbe residents, the mass felling of sycamores lining the city’s central boulevards touches a raw nerve, generating anger about not being consulted on the landscaping changes, and heightening concerns about corruption. Many are scratching their heads, asking a couple of basic questions; why the need for imported trees in a country with rampant poverty? And who might be profiting?
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