Ministry warns of tree-cutting practices to water sources

The Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment (MNRE) has warned the public against cutting trees on mountains, as it will have an impact on Samoa's water sources.

The increase in flooding during heavy rain and the drying up of rivers – except during the wet season – has been blamed on the destruction of forests in the country's mountainous areas.

MNRE Assistant CEO (water resources division), Asuao Malaki Iakopo, told the Samoa Observer that the cutting of trees in the mountains will gradually have an impact on the country's water sources. 

“The cutting down of trees located on the mountains has several impacts. At the moment, as the population grows and move uplands, we sort of cut down the forest and there tends to be more and more agriculture activities. But the forest is a main blanket that helps the soil absorb the water.

“Without the blanket to stop the water, the flow tends to be at a faster rate and that is why we see more flooding and also it has affected our rivers – they don’t flow throughout the whole year, but only flow through the wet season and then they dry up.

“In the old days they said it used to flow a lot but because our population has grown and more demand on water and land which is why our ministry is promoting sustainable land use management,” he said.

Public awareness and education, which would highlight the importance of protecting forests in the mountains, are important according to the ACEO. 

“We need a lot of public awareness and education, which is why we spend a lot of funding every year so that we can reach out to the communities.

“Raising awareness on some of the activities that is damaging our water sources, like the population growing and moving into the hinterlands where the watershed areas are located, and if you look into the mountains it acts as our natural water tanks that stores water for us.

“All the rivers start from up on the mountains because all the water sources are there – we are not saying to stop agriculture or stop clearing, we can because we need to develop but we need to do it in a way that is sustainable,” he said.

Asuao said people should now think forest conversation, when trying to embark on projects such as the construction of houses. 

“With that being said and also our plantations and cattle farm, to please do it away, the rivers especially to not use chemicals because it all contributes to pollution.

“We also try to raise awareness with land owners some of the critical areas is helping them replant and dialogue because people are not aware of these issues.

“If we are all aware of environmental issues and how to cope and improve, then we will be able to live in a much safer environment," he added. 

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