Our land is burning worse than ever in living memory. All across Central, the road verges, the scrubland and even the few stands of trees have been burnt black and all life has disappeared. Throughout the Southland, between Fyzabad and Point Fortin, the forests have been burned, the ground as black as the seeping oil — which itself had burned away in billows of dark black smoke. The hills and valleys of the Northern Range, much of it our precious Forest Reserves, are now filled with smoke and crackling flames. As the fires continue to climb the mountains to their summits, what is becoming of the wildlife which lives — or lived — there?
And with our country covered in the thick, grey, sickening smoke of our self-destruction, nothing is being done anywhere to save any of our land. There was no preparation for the impending dry season. In previous years fire traces had been cleared in several of our forested areas. We are not aware of any traces being cut this year. In previous years volunteer groups tried to help the overworked Forestry Division and Fire Department. We hear of no such efforts this year. And indeed we do not hold either the Forestry workers, or the Fire Department responsible for the ongoing destruction of our land. They cannot, with their limited resources, contain the number and intensity of the fires currently raging.
It is against the law to light a fire without first obtaining a permit to do so. We wonder how many permits have been applied for so far this year, and indeed, if any, how many have been approved? Certainly we have not heard of anyone being charged for setting fires, and we know that in previous dry seasons persons had been and were made to pay fines. We are under no delusion that the penalty for setting a fire which subsequently burns out of control is a deterrent, but still the law needs to be applied.
Our concern here is that with the most serious bush and forest fires in years, there is absolutely no effort on the part of any arm of Government to bring an end to the constant burning of the land. And worse, there appears to be no concern on the part of Government or the corporate sector, or indeed anyone, that our forests are being destroyed. How can this be? What is it that we still do not understand about the connections between trees, forests and the water we drink? Can it be that our government simply is not aware that if we lose our forests — to fire, to quarrying, and to “development”, we will eventually have no more water in our land — except flood waters? Can it really be that our corporate sector is so lacking in consciousness, that they do only see “bush burning”, and have no thought of the consequences to come?
Twenty odd years ago, when El Tucuche was burning, dozens of volunteers climbed the mountain to save the special forest there. Today, as El Tucuche burns, it burns unhindered. What has happened to us, that we can no longer volunteer to save our land?
Can it be that we are so embittered and disillusioned that if the country burns we simply say “let it burn”?