Johannesburg - Concession holders of the N4 had to pay around R1 million extra to save a centuries-old fig tree when they built an extension to the highway outside Nelspruit, Beeld reported on Thursday.
“The tree would originally have been removed to make room for two lanes, but after the community expressed their displeasure with our plan, different options were considered to try and save the tree,” said Anita Heyl, spokeswoman for concession holder Trans African Concessions (Trac).
There was an uproar in 2011 when Trac announced plans to remove the tree, a Ficus Salicifolia, which was originally thought to be a protected species, and only one of two in the area.
Even though these concerns were found to be groundless, Trac resolved to save the tree.
With the help of the CSIR, samples were bored from the trunk and sent to the Netherlands for testing. The tree was found to be between 215 and 265 years old.
In October 2011, the SA National Roads Agency gave permission for the road to be redesigned to preserve the tree, and 1km of road had to be replanned.
Road construction is nearing completion, and the tree has been left to stand tall, on an island between the old and new roads. - Sapa