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Dry season, drought and fires

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This time of year traditionally ushers in the dry season though with the vagaries of climate change, there are many variations in traditional weather patterns, locally and globally. There have been predictions by some weather experts of possible prolonged dry periods which we can only ignore at our own peril.

Any such prolonged dry spell has a number of serious implications for us all and it is vital that we understand these so as to be able to take steps to mitigate against the worst effects.{{more}} The most obvious one is the negative effect that drought must have on agricultural production. This can pose a serious threat to our food security in the reduction of the availability of locally-produced food. Naturally, a fall off in supply brings with it both a rise in food prices as well as increased demand for imported food.

Neither of these is good for consumers nor for the local economy, which is already under stress. In addition any negative impact on local food production, in turn affects our food exports at a time when the agricultural sector is beginning to experience some improvement. So more food imports and less exports can only harm our balance of payments.

There are other dangers as well from any period of drought. There will be a reduction in the availability of water if the dry season really kicks in, challenging our water storage capacity issues at both the national and personal levels. This in turn brings with it health risks especially for the most vulnerable sections of the population. Ironically any such dry season may have the converse effect of reducing the threat of the multiplication of the Aedes Aegypti mosquito with its Zika, Chikungunya and Dengue viruses.

There will also be energy issues stemming from any reduction in the water available for hydroelectricity. We have been benefiting from reduced electricity bills as a result of the steady fall in fuel prices. A long dry period will reverse this.

One significant threat is that of the proliferation of forest fires, many of them caused by human activity. Officials of the Forestry Department of the Ministry of Agriculture have made a public warning about this. In addition to the usual threat to life, limb and property, the Department has raised an often overlooked threat. It is the impact of such fires on potential investment especially in the hospitality industry. The Mount Wynne area, earmarked for major hotel construction has been specifically mentioned.

All this means that we have to take all these risks very seriously and at all levels begin to make preparations should the worst occur. This relates to conservation, cutting out wastage, being vigilant to prevent the outbreak of forest fires. A massive public education programme is needed.

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