“Due to the highly unseasonal rainfall this year we are extremely fortunate thus far in that we have not mobilised all forestry officers in fire protection activities except on the northen range from Arima to Chaguaramas where fires have started,” said Seepersad Ramnarine, Ag Conservator of Forests, Forestry Division at the launch of World Forestry Day (WFD) March 21, World Water Day (WWD) March 22 and World Meteorological Day (WMD) March 23 at the Brian Lara Promenade yesterday.
Ramnarine said staff of the Forestry Division actively worked to deal with forest fires indiscriminately set by persons clearing land for agriculture, and housing. He appealed for citizens to help prevent fires and protect forests.
“Experience has shown that communities need to play an integral role in maintaining our forested environment. The forestry Division cannot do it alone.”
Ramnarine said forests worldwide were at risk for widespread deforestation and degradation. He mentioned the benefits derived from forests including as a source of raw materials, income, and habitats for flora and fauna that otherwise would become extinct. Ramnarine said, “They clean our air. They clean our water. They purify our soil and regulate our climate amongst many other things.”
Forests also contribute to good health. Ramnarine quoted a study in England which found persons living closer to “greener” environments had a 25 percent lower all-cause death rate even after adjustments were made for health impacts due to poverty. Another study concluded that every ten percent in green spaces was associated with reduction in diseases equivalent to a five-year increase in life expectancy.
TT has a unique terrestrial eco-system with the forested landscape of the northern range to forests on the lowlands, savannahs and wetlands which provide habitats for more than 2000 flowering plants, 600 species of butterflies, over 400 species of birds, 95 species of mammals, 85 species of reptiles, 54 species of fresh water fishes and 30 species of amphibians. Ramnarine said to enjoy the splendour of the forested eco-systems and their services they must be managed in a sustainable manner. “Let’s make every effort to protect our forests from illegal logging, illegal quarrying, squatting for housing and agriculture, illegal land clearing for other uses, illegal hunting, forests fires.”
Commenting on the rainy days being experienced, Emmanuel Moolchan, chairman of the WFD, WWD, WMD Planning Committee said the active weather system, called a “jet stream” was causing abundant cloudiness over TT. This was the result of moisture being advected (horizontal transport of water vapour by the wind) from over the Amazon.