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Slash-and-burn farmers destroying hills
Marijuana cultivators and citizens farming illegally on state lands are taking over the hills of Tacarigua.
Forestry Division officer Anil Ticklal said so yesterday as he spoke to employees of Guardian Media Ltd (GML) who took part in a tree-planting exercise on the hills of St Michael’s, Tacarigua. Yesterday’s tree-planting project commemorated World Environment Day which was celebrated on June 5. The tree-planting exercise was just one of the exercises used to raise awareness during 2011, which was declared Year of the Forests by the United Nations.
Ticklal said throughout the year, the forest had been threatened by farmers who illegally occupied land to plant crops. He also said there were many marijuana fields in area. He said, too, that these cultivators engaged in the slash-and-burn practice to clear the land. Ticklal said slash-and-burn resulted in harmful long-term effects and predicted that because of this, severe flooding would occur in the months to come. He cited the clearing of land for housing as a major contributor. Ticklal said it was important that people became aware of the importance of forests in the ecosystem.
As such, the Forestry Division has been encouraging non-governmental organisations to participate in tree-planting projects throughout T&T. The trees were planted to give life to areas that had been destroyed by illegal acts. Forest ranger Benedicte Figueroa noted that bushfires had decreased significantly in the past year in the North-West division. Figueroa said although last year’s dry season saw close to 100 forest fires in the division, that number had decreased this year to about ten.
He attributed the decrease to the amount of rainfall but assured that in the case of forest fires, the officers had various methods to deal with such situations.
He described last year’s dry season as depressing because of the amount of fires. “People might not appreciate that we spend our lives outdoor taking care of and trying to protect the forests only to see trees destroyed in a matter of moments,” he said. He stated, however, that for every one tree which was destroyed in the forest, the division’s goal was to plant ten more. Guardian staff planted lines of cedar, pink poui, oliviere and cypre trees along the mountain side.