Urgent Need to Protect Trees in Barbados

Faith Schwartz-Devonish of the St. James Primary School

NCC General Manager, Keith Neblett assisting 7-year-old Faith Schwartz-Devonish of the St. James Primary School with planting a baobab tree at today's Arbor Day ceremony at Folkstone Park and Marine Reserve. (C.Pitt/BGIS)

There is an urgent need to protect and preserve the existing tree stock in Barbados, and to have an ongoing tree planting programme throughout the island.

This appeal has come from General Manager of the National Conservation Commission (NCC), Keith Neblett, as he addressed the 2015 National Arbor Day celebrations under the theme: Trees the Circle of Life, at the Folkestone Park and Marine Reserve today.

He disclosed that the NCC was on a mission to increase the 1,000 trees it planted annually over the last 18 years, to 4,000 per year over the next five years.

This is in an effort to maximise the use of the increasing number of open spaces being seen around the island.

According to him, 90 per cent of areas designated as open spaces in new developments were presently overrun by grass. And, he has urged homeowners to come together and keep the open spaces in good condition by planting trees and other types of plants.

“It is not just a NCC thing. We [also] want those people who run [plant] nurseries to get involved, and indicate that they would provide 200 to 300 trees, not to the NCC, but to community service clubs,” Mr. Neblett suggested.

Meanwhile, he has taken issue with developers who wanted to see clear lots and therefore sought to remove existing trees unwittingly rather than working around them. “We cannot preserve all, but where we can find the opportunity to work around them we should,” he emphasised.

The General Manager also expressed concern over the number of trees in Barbados which were old and dying, and urged persons to contact the Ministry of the Environment and Drainage or the NCC to get advice on how to handle such trees.

“Every time we have a storm of over 40 to 50 miles per hour, the amount of trees that we tend to lose because of that slight wind is too much. All that is saying is that people are taking for granted the trees that are around them,” Mr. Neblett noted.

The General Manager pointed out that had Dominica not had the type of trees it did, the extent of flooding experienced by that country following the passage of Tropical Storm Erika would have been worse. “We need to take a page out of their book and recognise that we need to protect and preserve our trees,” he stated.

The trail of destruction left behind by Hurricane Janet 60 years ago not only resulted in a significant loss of life, serious damage to homes and general infrastructure, but also in a serious loss of the tree stock. Since then, the NCC has spearheaded the distribution and replanting of 30,000 trees.

Barbados is one of over 35 countries in the world to celebrate Arbor Day, and the only one in the Caribbean to do so.

Julia Rawlins-Bentham (BGIS)