Jamaican landslides blamed on deforestation

The landslides, triggered by the downpours from Tropical Storm Gustav, have prompted the Jamaican government to call on people to replant trees in deforested areas.

Conservator of Forests, Marilyn Headley, has pointed out that most land slippage as a result of Tropical Storm Gustav, occurred in deforested areas.

“There was little damage to trees,” said Marilyn Headley, conservator of forests told the Jamaican Information Service.

“There was mainly land slippage and damage to infrastructure, and areas with good tree cover had the least damage.”

She added that she was asking people to help replant the areas where deforestation had left the soil exposed to the elements.

“In observance of National Tree Planting Day on 3 October, I am appealing to schools, community groups, NGOs and farmers, particularly in the hilly areas, to collect the free seedlings available from the Forestry Department and plant these trees for crop shade or to restore cover on bare hillsides.

She explained that hills without sturdy tree cover could not sustain agriculture, as crops would always be lost in heavy rains.

“Rich top soil is also washed to the sea. For food security and rural development, keeping trees on our hills is therefore critical.

“Our theme this year – Deforested hillside, Downstream disaster – is in keeping with this concept,” Miss Headley noted.

She also said that farmers had often cleared land too much, removing all vegetation – including trees- before replanting the area with banana trees.

Forest trees, which provided the necessary shade after about five years, also survived much longer than banana trees.

These trees, she observed, were also much more resilient against the high winds and torrential rains of tropical storms.

Since National Tree Planting Day was initiated five years ago, there has been a significant increase in urban forests.

She encouraged more planting of forest trees in rural areas such as the eastern Blue Mountains and Yallahs River watershed, which suffered severe damage during this Atlantic hurricane season.

“Seedlings available from the Forestry Department this year are mahogany, silky oak, yucca, Spanish elm, niem, milkwood, cedar and other less known varieties that are suitable for watershed areas and inter-cropping,” she explained.

Source: Jamaican Information Service

Date: 29/09/2008

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