No water and fire. Those are the words on many lips in the Caribbean as record breaking high temperatures (35 degrees Celsius) and low rainfall is affecting livelihood and life in the Caribbean. February 2010 was the driest February on record in Trinidad and Tobago receiving only 2.1mm of rainfall. Prior to that the driest February was in 1960 when 4.9mm of rain fell. The average rainfall in February for the past 30 years has been 43mm.
Although the country of Trinidad and Tobago is being featured in this report, conditions are similar across the Caribbean.
The severe dry season and resulting dry atmosphere, parched ground and dry bush are the reason for many fires. Anyone flying into Piarco International Airport in Trinidad will be startled to see as many as nine raging forest fires. The forest fires are destroying much vegetation on the Northern Range as they have to burn themselves out. The area is inaccessible to fire fighters. Besides, firefighters are taxed to their limit trying to keep life threatening blazes all across the country under control. One local remarked, “I have never seen firemen work so hard for their money.”
Further inland along the highways visibility is sometimes hampered by smoke billowing from bush fires along the roadways. Even the wetlands area (home to the world famous Scarlet Ibis birds) that is normally green and swampy all year round is dry and burnt in many areas.
Bush fires are also responsible for igniting and destroying five houses in south Trinidad. Additionally, the warehouse of a major soft drink factory was set ablaze by an uncontrolled bush fire.
The agricultural sector has also been hard hit by the prolonged drought conditions. Many farmers are predicting that since the lack of water is increasing their cost of producing fruits and vegetables, consumers will face increased food prices. Animal farmers have also spoken about having to cull some of their animals because of limited water and grass to maintain their livestock. Additionally, milk production is down since cows are not getting adequate water and nourishing grass. Expensive imported animal food rations are being used to supplement local grass supplies to keep the animals alive.
The Caribbean is therefore looking to the skies and hoping for the rains to come. The situation is so dire that water conservation plans and resource allocation discussed at the 21st Intercessional Caribbean Community (Caricom) Heads of Government Meeting recently held in Dominica. This seems to be a good time for reflection. Allah Almighty’s words can certainly help the process. He says in Holy Quran, Sura Mulk, Ayat 30: “If (all) your water were to disappear into the earth, who then could bring you gushing water?