St. John’s Antigua- A recent fire has reportedly set back efforts to recharge the Body Ponds water shed area.
“Sunday, (when) I went out, I saw the smoke in the distance and I investigated and I realised the site itself was being burned,” explained Forestry Division senior officer Adriel Thibou.
By the time the Fire Department had done its job, some of the trees had been saved, but the loss was significant. The pictures show the 10- acre demo site, part of the Sustainable Island Resource Management Mechanism located in the heart of Body Ponds, across from Fisher Dam, looking like a burnt out wasteland.
There is no clear indication of what started the fire, but Thibou is absolutely confident that it is man-made, whether from the indiscriminate burning of lemon grass, a flicked cigarette, badmindedness of mischief, or some other factor.
“These are deliberate fires,” Thibou said.
At this point, you might be saying, what does one fire matter? Thibou points out that Body Ponds is the second largest watershed area in the country, second only to Potworks.
The demo site specifically had been planted with a multitude of fruit trees in recent years, which, as it’s on government land, would be to the public’s benefit in terms of accessing these fruits. There is a more troubling “domino effect” however.
“The loss of vegetation in this area increases soil erosion,” Thibou said, noting that this can lead to flooding and increase the amount of silt going into the water.
The demonstration project was seen, in part as a model for corrective action. When it started in 2008, it was on the heels of one of these de-nuding fires, and placing fire resistant plants on the perimeter provided a buffer that allowed the fruit trees to thrive.
According to Thibou, “As long as we can maintain the buffer (including keeping the grass within eight inches), we’d have no problem/”
Maintenance of this buffer, however, has been compromised by reduced resource allocation by the powers that control such things.
Thibou is asking the public to help.
“What we need from people are trees,” he said. Plus anyone willing to come out and assist with maintenance, particularly of the buffer, such as help cut the grass, would also be welcomed.
Come out, he suggested, and you won’t need to be convinced of why it’s important.
“The place is breathtakingly beautiful,” Thibou said. “We have a treasure trove right here… (it has) huge eco tourism potential.”
Volunteers should call 720-5510 or 776-6159.