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Wednesday, June 3, 2020
Home Features The river is full of silt already

The river is full of silt already

May is usually a dry month in Belize, at least until we’ve completed the first fifteen days, but this year we got some rain, some welcomed rain, very early in the month. The last half of last year was very dry, and there wasn’t that much rainfall in the first part of this year, so it is unlikely there was one person with a mature mind in our country who didn’t say, “Praise the Lord, God is great!”, when showers of blessing fell on our parched earth.

The showers put out a lot of fires that were burning across the country, some in the forest reserves in the west and south. Some farmers showed their burned-out fields to the media, fields where their valuable crops of pineapples, plantain, and ground food were destroyed. It seems the pastures made it through without mishap, because we didn’t hear of any starving cattle breaking fences to go search for feed.

The people who record rainfall say that it is drier than usual in our part of the world, and the naked eye would agree that Belize is in a dry cycle, because runaway fires during the regular dry season are becoming the norm. My memory indicates that at least three times in the last ten years our country has been burning out of control in April and May. It is obvious that if we don’t find a budget to fight fires, our agriculture and water supply will be in serious trouble.

Every time the forest burns it becomes more vulnerable to runaway fires, because when the fire passes it leaves a lot of dying trees behind, and the bush that grows up is prime fuel for fires.

Some of these fires are caused by farmers who burn their milpa without making a good fire pass around their field, but a lot of the fires are caused by the yearly spontaneous burning of the subaanaz. A part of the management of some grasses involves burning; it is the case with grasses in the subaana that they need to be burned to stay healthy, and that is why the Father sends lightning to set them aflame in the dry season.

If I had my way (I don’t, no), I would get a bulldozer and during the wet season I would make fire passes around all the subaana areas in our country. I would also make fire passes in the more vulnerable areas of the forest reserves. If we are in a dry cycle, we have to change our management practices so that the dry season fires can be controlled.

Now, to the Belize River, it’s not impossible that there was a huge amount of rainfall in Guatemala, a lot more than fell in Belize since the month started, and that would be the explanation for the Belize River carrying so much silt already. I passed by the Iguana Creek Bridge, which is a bridge on the Belize River by Black Man Eddy, and the river was all brown, like thick cocoa.

It was hugely disappointing, because part of the joy of crossing that bridge is to peek at the river, which is usually emerald green this time of year. When I first got to really know the Belize River, in the 1980s, it didn’t carry silt until the first big flood of the year, which was usually in late June, or July.

The way it goes now, all because of neglect or our turning a blind eye, the Belize River will stay muddy all through the wet season if we don’t have another serious drought this year. Nobody will pray for a drought, but we can’t stop commenting about this aesthetic and economic/flora/fauna disaster.

Just about the only good thing about a brown river is that it makes for better fishing for baaka. When the river floods, it spreads into low-lying areas and some tasty little animals that live in those parts become prey for these cousins of the kyato, the voracious baaka. You know the world and the food chain, and where we are, at the top. Incidentally, just so my country cousins and friends don’t take offense, the baaka does seem more akin to the prized kabeeyo (cobia) than the canal-infesting kyatho.

There is nothing exciting to the eyes in a brown river. Ask the artists, they’ll tell you; if you can’t find one (an artist), just Google “rivers”, or look for a painting. No one paints a brown river; the only reason people will take a picture of a river in that state is for recording purposes.

The depression a river loaded with silt brings to the spirit is nothing compared with the deadly cargo it is carrying. All that silt is agricultural runoff, from land that is cultivated near the rivers and creeks, and besides silt there are also pesticides and fertilizers in the brown soup. That stuff is bad for the rivers and creeks, because it disturbs the habitat of small organisms, and then the fish that feed on the small organisms lose their food source, and starve.

For years we have blamed the depletion of fish stock and hikiti in the rivers on over-harvesting, but the silt and pesticide/fertilizer load might be a culprit too. The people whom we pay to care should look into these things.

Bah, imagine what happens when that stuff reaches the inner reef. In past years we only got the silt load when the river was in flood, so there was a good chance that the reef would get washed clean by the waves before the next load of silt and toxins came down. Now the pressure is on the reef constantly, for more than six months of the year. My gudnis, just a lee bit of rain and the river is full of silt and stuff already.

Morning Stew hosts say we are inviting a second wave

A caller to the Krem Morning Stew, a very popular caller, asked the hosts if they thought we would experience a second wave of the new coronavirus, and both Frisco and Steve “The Groove” responded that we were headed that way. I didn’t get to hear Ms. Lisa Love’s comments, but both male hosts said we were acting like we were over it already and that is inviting trouble. Frisco said there are Belizeans who are sneaking across the border to do whatever, and with the COVID-19 situation being what it is in neighboring countries, that’s bad news for us.

Our very low population density gives us a great advantage over our neighbors, but if we heng slek or get overexcited, like some churchgoers did, things could get out of hand. There are 180 persons in self-isolation, awaiting the results of tests, after a pastor in California violated that state’s laws and held a Mother’s Day church service. It was discovered the day after the service that one of the churchgoers was positive.

Maybe we shouldn’t be surprised that some Belizeans are resisting the safety measures, for division is the lesson taught to us by our political leaders. We should be all in for respecting the measures to contain COVID-19, however, because all it takes is one rotten aapl to ruin an entire barrel, and one new coronavirus positive person to infect 80 people, as happened in Italy.

Some Belizeans have said that we should opt for herd immunity— what the medical experts explain is something that originated with cattle ranchers, for the cow business. All the experts say that herd immunity makes absolutely no sense at this time. I didn’t study ten or twelve years to be a doctor, so I have to respect what they’re saying.

In Brazil, which didn’t give a daam — in other words, they chose herd immunity —the death toll among the poorer classes is horrific. Belizeans have to understand that in situations like these it is the poorer people who take most of the lick. It is bad enough that we are suffering economically; we wouldn’t want to add to that by being overwhelmed with sickness.

The government’s part is to deliver the goods to people in need, so that all of us have good food to eat. Our part is to follow the rules.

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