One of the six new volcanoes in Los Iros

Farmers affected by the emergence of six new volcanoes in the Los Iros district should cultivate drought-tolerant crops instead of traditional short crops, says senior geoscientist, Xavier Moonan.

Speaking to Guardian Media, Moonan said the soil near the volcanoes was no longer holding water as it once did.

Since the emergence of new fault lines following the August 21 earthquake, Moonan said the soil moisture content had changed and the area was now experiencing drought-like conditions which were not conducive to planting traditional crops.

Asked whether the farmers from the area should be relocated, Moonan said only those farmers whose lands were in the immediate vicinity of the fault lines, should do so.

“Approximately 107 acres of farmland were affected by the earthquake in 2018. The area was heavily fractured and as such one and a half years later many of the fractures still persist, and this has significantly affected the drainage and water retention in the area,” Moonan said.

He added, “The new mud volcanoes occur an area just under one acre along the main surface rupture or fault from the earthquake.”

Moonan said residents were not in any danger and there was no need to evacuate householders.

Contacted for comment, Agriculture Minister Clarence Rambharat said given the nature of the matter, the ministry’s Engineering Division was investigating the impact of the new volcanoes on the farmlands.

“The director of Engineering is Ms Ann Marie Dardaine,” Rambharat said, adding that he was yet to receive scientific reports about the volcanic developments.

Told that 107 acres of land were faulted after the quake, Rambharat said, “I have not seen a geoscientist’s report so cannot comment.”

Rambharat added, “As I have said before any bona fide occupant of affected land would be considered for relocation once there is an agreement to desist from further use of the land.”

He shied away from saying whether the site had great potential for tourism, explaining, “I cannot offer an opinion on that. If the geoscientist’s report points to issues with the site, then any alternative use will be conditional on the site being suitable for that purpose.”

As to what plans were in place for the area, Rambharat said, “I know we would like to restore the forestry on the ridge overlooking the sea as part of the long term stabilisation of the site. We have not done so yet because of the technical studies being undertaken by the engineering professionals outside the Ministry.”

Last Monday, president of the Los Iros Hillview Farmers Association Rishi Ramraj, called on the Government to relocate farmers and to develop Los Iros as an agri-tourist site.

He said the six volcanoes cropped up within a week and has been oozing a steady mudflow.