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Fiji Times Suva, Fiji Islands

March 30, 2000

It is ironical that debate over mahogany forests should have broken out only days before Arbor Week.

This week forestry stations around the country will sell seedlings and plants as part of national celebrations.

Students have been encouraged to plant trees at school and home to mark what is an important, yet often-forgotten event.

Young people must be taught the value of plants and the role they play in the environment.

Children must learn that without plant life human existence comes under serious threat.

This is all too evident in the erosion that takes place in forests and along riverbanks around the country.

Trees and plants provide a natural barrier against the ravages of river currents, floods and wind.

They serve as natural protection against landslides.

Plants and trees provide food, shelter for birds and animals, material for building homes.

Without vegetation the soil is weakened by rain, slides occur and this pollutes the waterways and can kill river life.

Excessive siltation in the Rewa and Ba rivers are perfect examples of this.

Millions of dollars have been spent dredging the rivers to make them deeper. This has made villages along the banks safer from flooding.

But no government can continue to spend money on dredging waterways because of erosion upstream.

Much of the erosion in mountain areas has been caused by excessive and indiscriminate logging.

Landowners argue that they own the forests and are free to use the trees as they wish.

While this is true, they must be made to realize how much their actions impact upon the living conditions of others.

Fewer trees mean less rain and less water.

The whole nation must not be allowed to suffer at the hands of the uncaring few.

Fortunately the Forestry Department has launched a campaign to advise landowners on the importance of reforestation.

Trees which are removed must be replaced.

This allows landowners to sustain their forests and livelihood.

At the same time, people who are indirectly but inextricably linked to logging projects are guaranteed clean water and can live safely in the knowledge that the natural cycle of the environment will continue unabated.

For additional reports from the Fiji Times, go to PACIFIC ISLANDS REPORT News/Information Links: Newspapers/Fiji Times.

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