March 21 marked the beginning of Spring – a reminder of the earth’s cycle of life that includes restoration and rebirth!!  In the midst of our health crisis in Jamaica and globally, we at the PSOJ wish for all of Jamaica a celebration of Forests and Water. March 21 is recognised by the United Nations as International Day of Forests and March 22 is World Water Day – both initiatives to raise awareness of the importance of our biodiversity and ecosystems to health and well-being.

In that light, the UN theme for International Day of Forests 2021 is Forest restoration; a path to recovery and well-being. This theme is most appropriate after the devastating impact of COVID-19. Forests and vegetation cover play a significant role as air filters cleansing the air of pollutants, encourage active and healthy lifestyles, improve mental health, prevent disease, and provide a place for people to socialize. Forest cover acts as important absorption for greenhouse gas emissions, especially carbon, thereby helping to mitigate the effects of global warming and climate change.

Of further significance is the role of forests in the water cycle, contributing to sustainable quality and quantity of water resources.  Tree cover retards runoff after rainfall, directing water into the soil for storage and transport underground, and reduces floods, landslides and soil erosion.   The PSOJ is actively participating in Jamaica’s National Tree Planting initiative – 3 million trees in 3 years –   announced by The Hon Prime Minister to contribute to building climate resilience and reducing disaster risk.

Next to air, water is the most critical resource for life. Again, during this pandemic, the importance of water for sanitation has been especially heightened. World Water Day 2021 which immediately follows the focus on Forests is promoting as the theme Valuing Water.

It is important for us as citizens to understand the importance of our individual roles in contributing to the sustainable supply of water by our contribution to planting or maintaining vegetation cover, to reducing waste, and to avoiding pollution of water sources.  Demand is outstripping supply in many areas, and there are large sections of our country where access to water is very difficult.

We have to protect our water resources bearing in mind that the largest and best storage in Jamaica is the underground aquifer which we recharge from rainfall-runoff either directly or through streams and sinkholes.  Jamaica is blessed as a predominantly limestone country, and the rock type and formations lend to water percolation, storage and movement underground.

Further, as we continue to construct buildings, infrastructure and other enterprises, construction practices and output as well as agriculture should consider water availability and should seek to capture and store to facilitate sustainability for housing, industry, resorts, agriculture, and other uses.

We wish you all, our fellow Jamaicans, health and safety as we journey through Springtime, and as we recognize the value of our resources and the role that each of us needs to play for the health and well-being of current and future generations.