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Only after the last tree has been cut down;
Only after the last fish has been caught;
Only after the last river has been poisoned;
Only then will you realize that money cannot be eaten.
- Cree Indian Prophecy

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Dammed It!

By Forest Ang

......I did not know that trees, rivers and oceans play an important part in the survival of humanity.....

Many years ago, I did not know that trees, rivers and oceans play an important part in the survival of humanity. It was pointed to me by a visionary on the sustainability of the living water that develops our food resources. Let me share with you his vision.


In the Beginning

Rains fall on the mountains. Water accumulates to form tributaries. Tributaries form rivers, joining to the estuaries and into the seas and oceans. During monsoons, some of the forest trees fell onto the tributaries and rivers. It jammed up the streams and rivers to form dams. Minutes creatures found in the water disintergate the trees. Fungi, lichens, mosses and other small predators help to break up the trees. Fishes feed on these minutes creatures. With dams and pools many species of fishes dwell in it. If there are no trees to block the streams there might not be many natural dams and pools. This will only create certain variety of fish. There will not be any diversity of fish.

When there are no trees, water will rush down into the seas creating other problems; like landslides, floods and erosions (which I will not touch them). The water quality will be unsustainable for the minutes creatures. The swiftness of the water will kill them. Without trees and woods to live on they will die. As a result the fishes will disappear.

It is true to say that man-made dam helps create fishing paradise. Do you known why? Let us take Kenyir Dam as an example. Before the dam there were fishes. But now you get many, many more fishes. This is because there are many, many more dead trees submerged in the dam. Tiny living organisms live on the dead trees and the fishes live on the organisms. So let's built more dams? Wrong. Up till now we discuss on the fresh water fishes. How about marine fishes? Fishes that live in the oceans and breed in the rivers? They too need dead trees to survive.


The issues

By building dams, many fallen trees become a nuisance. They blocked the dams. Damaged the turbines and hindered travelling boats. Every dead tree will be taken out of the rivers. That means we are taking out the food of the microorganisms. And that also means we are taking the food of the fishes. (We must also know that many of these organisms also recycle and purify wastes in the water).

Do a simple experiment. Catch some siputs or cockles and place it in a basin of muddy seawater. Within a few hours the muddy water will be as clear as the bottled mineral water! Stir it. The water will not be muddy again! Except for the dropping of the siputs that will also be eaten by the tiny organisms. So by having dams many dead trees cannot float to the oceans. Many minutes living creatures that depend on the wood will disappear and so do many of the fishes that feed on them. That is exactly why coastal mangroove swamps are now being appreciated as a breeding ground for fries. You might say there are other alternatives of promoting marine fishes like the many coral reefs and artificial reefs to promote the fishing industries. Yes. But no if you think about the diversity of the fishes. Many species that depend on the wood feeding organisms will pupus. Maybe one of the fish could help cure AIDS. I know of a fish called "redfish" (usually discarded by the fisherman) can be used to cure bleeding nose. I am certain that it has coagulating agent in it. Cod liver oil is another example of medicinal seafood.


The Vision

A change in our wisdom could work for the biological sustainability, the environment and our future needs. We could have smaller dams. Dams that are fishes friendly and trees friendly. Meaning fishes can swim from the seas, passing rivers and dams, with no turbine to chop their heads. Trees are free to float down the rivers without the dams to hinder. Can that be done? Yes, if we have the vision. (Humanity went up the moon because once upon a time a single human being had a vision). This vision could be yours. Sirs

N.B.: This article was inspired by Chris Mason.

  

Written in 1980's for MNS' newsletter

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