Saipan, Northern Mariana Islands, Micronesia — Someone or more have been actively setting the hills in Babeldaob ablaze. The fires, according to some motorists, could not have been ignited naturally. Some of the hills, particularly those adjacent to the Compact Road between Ngaremlengui and Ngarchelong, have been scorched. The hills, which were once lush with green vegetation, have been stripped of life and exposed to the elements.
Based on Environmental Quality Protection Boards (EQPB) information dispersed to the public, the vegetation on the hills is vital in the prevention of soil erosion. In addition, the vegetation act as a natural filtration system in that it controls or prevents too much sedimentation from getting into and settling in our coastal waters. Without the vegetation, water runoffs from the hills would carry too much sediment into our coastal waters, which when it settles would eventually destroy the marine life.
In addition, according to Don Dengokl, Assistant Director of EQPB, there is a misconception amongst many people that setting fires to large open spaces for farming provides for fertile land in that ashes left from fires fertilizes the soil. Land clearing by means of burning, he said, actually makes the soil less fertile. Soil without live vegetative cover, he said, would be susceptible to water runoff during rain and parchment during dry seasons. Moreover, he said, the topsoil including the ash from fires will be eroded soon enough. Once the topsoil is eroded, the land would be barren and nothing would be able to grow in it for some time.
Dengokl urges everyone to be more conscious of the environment and to refrain from using fire as a method of land clearing. In addition, he said people must be aware that permits are required when setting fires. The permits can be obtained from EQPB at no cost.
Further information obtained from the fire department state that anyone caught or found to have intentionally caused a fire as in the burning of the hills without proper permits will be cited for violation of law. Everyone is asked to abide by the law to avoid jeopardizing the safety and well being of everyone else.