|Nature Fights Back
This morning started
early...very early! well before the sun rose we made our way along the
river bank and climbed the small cliffs of Oriella. Perched on top of
the cliffs, facing east to the sun, cameras at the ready we awaited
the dawn....At first reluctantly the sun crept onto the horizon from
behind the morning clouds and the village yawned its way into another
hazy day. As we loaded the boat and prepared for the day ahead I watched
enthralled as a thousand visions entertained my awakening senses - the
subtle observations that are more easily felt but hard to explain: A
women and her child skilfully pulling mangoes from a nearby tree; a
procession of bearers laden with heavy loads of succulent pineapples
bound for down stream markets; people bathing by the river's edge; a
boatman's methodical, almost rhythmical motion as he crossed the waters
in front of us. A magical start to the day.
About four hours into our journey up river Roberto suggested we stop
at a place called Apoera to prepare some lunch.
Apoera has an interesting story to tell. It is not so much a village;
in fact little or no people live here. As we walked around the deserted
logging site Roberto explained its history.
About eight years ago a large Malaysian logging company called MUSA
started to take an interest in this remote densely wooded area of western
With promises of increasing infrastructure and creating end product
industries within the country, they approached the government about
securing large-scale timber concessions. Initially, they where granted
over 100,000 hectares in the Apoera area and began to extract timber
here. I say initially because the actual area they had requested in
concessions amounted to nearly 1,200,000 (1.2 million) hectares of virgin
rainforest (nearly 10 percent of the entire country). Luckily, their
efforts did not go unnoticed. Large international conservation organisations
raised red flags around the world in an effort to draw attention to
this potential ecological disaster. Although it took a couple of years
they finally convinced the Surinamese government to reconsider the implications
of granting such enormous concessions.
MUSA, unhappy with the governments decision, decided to pull out from
Apoera, leaving hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of machinery
and huge stock piles of logs laid in lines and ready for export. The
reasons are uncertain and I will admit that I only know the very basics
of the story. However it is really worth looking into. If you want to,
I suggest doing a search on 'LOGGING IN SURINAME' and then MUSA it will
pull up the details that I can not easily explain.
It is hard to reason why MUSA reacted the way they did. Walking around
the old logging site today was a strange experience. Stockpiles of giant
tropical hard woods lay rotting along the riverside. Huge machinery,
caterpillar trucks, cranes and winches now long forgotten lay abandoned
partially covered by the encroaching jungle. In fact, the contrast of
seeing such powerful machinery entangled in fragile vines and creepers
is quite poignant. In some way it illustrates natures endurance... and
it's wonderful to see Mother Nature reclaiming lost ground.
Huge piles of tropical hard wood logs (around 50,000) are rotting away.
It seems so ridiculous, ironic and shamefully wasteful.
On a positive note... the planned concessions were not granted and because
of international pressure the site here at Apoera is, if nothing else,
a graphic reminder to all those who'll look, how not to manage a natural
Nature Fights Back
Down by the River Side