Dear Editor, I am replying to the recent article by Charles Bussue urging action by the relevant NGOs on the current problem of dying coconut trees.” It is no exaggeration to say that the Nevis Historical & Conservation Society is the leading environmental NGO in Nevis, in fact it is almost the only such organisation.” As a board member of the NHCS, and an active environmentalist, I am often called upon to be their spokesperson on environmental issues.” On the issue of Lethal Yellows of coconuts, the NHCS can in no way be accused of ignoring the issue or inaction.”” I myself seem to have talked and written at length over the last two years on this very issue,” I have been quoted (and misquoted) in this newspaper in an early article on the problem in mid” 2006,” I’ve been the only panellist on a talk show on Lethal Yellows on Choice FM (the Agriculture Dept. representative did not show up),” I have referred to the problem in another radio show on Biodiversity on VON radio.” The NHCS as a whole, together with the Mount Palmetum of Jessups,” sponsored a “Workshop on Lethal Yellowing”” on 16th May 2007,” which brought together representatives of the Dept. of Agriculture in Nevis,” international agencies such as IICA,” tourism,” hotels, landscapers and private” landowners to discuss options and strategies available.”” The website of the biodiversity group of the NHCS” – www.bio-diversity-nevis.org -” devotes a page to Lethal Yellows.” On the issue of sourcing funds;” in late 2006, through the efforts of one of our members,” the past owners of the Mount Palmetum donated $25,000 to the Ministry of Agriculture to help combat the disease,” up to now, nothing has been heard of how or indeed if this donation has been spent.” If less is being heard on Lethal Yellows from the NHCS at the moment, it is because the horse has long since bolted from the stable,” controlling the epidemic” is no longer an option.” If any bodies are to be accused of inaction, it is certainly not the NGOs, whose efforts emanate from unpaid volunteers. A few facts on the disease: Lethal yellows is a complex disease with no known cure at present, the only strategy open is prevention.” A minute organism called a phytoplasma causes the disease, it is moved from one tree to another by a small insect called a planthopper, both must be present for an epidemic to occur. Both organisms were almost certainly imported into Nevis prior to 2004 on landscaping material from Florida. Options in the short term are limited to injecting healthy trees with an antibiotic which suppresses the disease but does not cure it.” These injections have to be carried out every three to four months” throughout the life of the tree” to keep it healthy.” Obviously from the costs incurred, this is not an option for large acreages.” There are also reservations in some quarters about the possible long term effects of human exposure to the antibiotic in the jellywater or coconut meat. Options in the long term centre on replanting with resistant varieties of coconut and ornamental palms.” The Malayan Dwarf coconut, which is known as “grafted coconut”, has for years been the coconut of choice for backyard gardeners in Nevis, and shows more tolerance than tall trees, but not complete resistance to the disease .” Tall resistant hybrids are available at some expense from Jamaica and Costa Rica.” A news release a few months ago informed that some Malayan Dwarf nuts had been obtained by the Dept of Agriculture from Dominica with the assistance of IICA.”” Re-establishment of coastal stands of coconut palms remains an extremely long term project, complicated by issues of landownership let alone the problems of nurturing young plants in open public spaces. It is indeed sad to look at the dead and dying palms in Nevis,” Pinneys beach and Gallows Bay will never” return to their previous beauty in our lifetimes,” Nelson’s Spring, an historic site, risks looking like a scene of dereliction.” The lesson to be learned is that our environment cannot be taken for granted, we have to be continually vigilant and protective, there are lots more pests and diseases out there waiting to be introduced, and there are lots of so called “development” plans presenting an even greater threat.” For those people interested in making a difference,” I suggest getting involved with the NHCS and supporting our active environmental and historical conservation programmes.” Jennifer Lowery Nevis