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The dangers of deforestation

In the grand scheme of things Grenada’s carbon footprint is miniscule. This is evident when the graphs and statistics are analysed at international events such as the COP27 taking place in Egypt. Yet, far removed from such international gatherings where Grenada and other Small Island Developing States plead for financial and other forms of support from the “real culprits” with their huge carbon footprints, environmentally destructive practices within our midst remain unchecked. One such practice is making charcoal, commonly referred to as ‘coals’ that are found on sale by vendors at many locations.

Again, in the grand scheme of things, charcoal production in Grenada is miniscule. In Africa, for example, where it is the primary fuel for millions of people, there is evidence that charcoal use is decimating ecosystems. Geographer Fernando Sedano of the University of Maryland, who studies energy demand and forest degradation in Sub-Saharan Africa, said charcoal producers are removing 80% of the biomass in the forest.

In Haiti, the International Union for the Conservation of Nature reports that deforestation is the main reason for almost 12 species of birds, 28 species of plants, 46 species of amphibians, 15 species of fish and 10 species of reptiles and mammals being in danger of extinction.  A USAID Reforestation Project was implemented there as deforestation is causing soil erosion; degrading coastal and marine resources; and making communities more vulnerable to drought, hurricanes and severe flooding.

Here in Grenada, the indiscriminate sawing down of mature trees and destruction of mangroves – for charcoal or for clearing to accommodate development – has been going on for years without much notice. Now, as the world experiences climate change first hand, Grenada must take a closer and more serious look at this small industry. This presents an ideal opportunity for the new National Democratic Congress government, in its commitment to transformation and change, to delve deeper into what is really happening in and around our rain forests, our dry forests, our mangroves; and along our coastlines and river banks, as well as small ravines.  When I a look at the state of the St John’s River along River Road, where a major project is being implemented, I wonder if that river, its aquatic and plant life will ever be restored?

There was a time when Grenada was hailed as a leader in forestry development. In 1998 the Forestry Department completed a highly participatory forest policy development process. It was recognised internationally for its “ground up” approach, by engaging as many people as possible who depended upon the forests for a livelihood. The National Forestry Policy was approved by Cabinet in 1999. Among its goals were to preserve Morne Gazo and Annandale as forest reserves; create a new reserve in the forested hills of the Mt St Catherine area; and protect critical watersheds. That policy, which was committed to environmental protection, sustainable development and participatory democracy, should have the dust shaken from its cover. The new government could use it a step to uncovering those practices that are undermining our environmental by innocent people who do not know better; construction activities that destroy the environment; or arms and agencies of government that fall short in their duties.

A forever forestry lover


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