Trinidad and Tobago — That we have had a very trying wet season is beyond doubt, what with the frequent flooding of the capital city and elsewhere in the country. How this season compares with the past is clouded in uncertainties, what with the problems of clogged drains, unauthorised buildings and developments along watercourses and inadequacy of the national drainage system.
We were fortunate to be spared the tropical depressions and storms that are so characteristic of the hurricane season. We nevertheless feel that when the records are closed for the year the Meteorological Service will undoubtedly tell us that the figures for the year fell within the range of long term averages.
We remind our readers that, as the old saying goes, as night follows day we are entering the dry season. The days and nights are so pleasant now. The hills are still green. There is still the occasional shower or even downpour with freshening breezes and the nights are cool. Ours is a wet tropical climate with two seasons of wet and dry conditions. What comes next is the dry season, a season that is as variable as the wet season, with some years being drier, or wetter, than may be expected.
In wet dry seasons the hills remain green and there are few bush fires. Conversely in drier dry seasons the hills and countryside go brown and there are many bush fires, generally man-made. Of course it is quite impossible to predict conditions of the coming season. It could very well be similar to conditions which obtained over the past two or three years which were relatively wet. But we could equally well have a severe dry season with bush fires.
And here is the problem. We are no more prepared for extremes of weather, whether wet or dry. Bush fires are usually comparatively brief events but their long term effects are cumulative and severely reduce the capacity of watersheds to moderate rainfall run-off and recharge aquifers.
Thus it is obvious that all efforts must be made to prevent bush fires whatever happens in the coming season. But this is not enough. The hillsides of the western Northern Range have over the years been severely denuded by fire and hillside development, planned and unplanned, contributing no doubt to the serious flooding in Port of Spain.
Long term, it is imperative that meaningful reforestation is effected. But at the same time the very least that we expect is that all necessary steps will be taken to protect what is there against any further degradation from bush fires.