Letter: Fitting tribute to Andrew Lees

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The Independent Online
Sir: As someone who has lived in Madagascar and has a great affection for that island and its people, and who is also a professional ecologist, I fully support the views of Friends of the Earth and the late Andrew Lees that further damage to the fragile environment of Madagascar must be avoided. Titanium is one of the most abundant metallic elements in the earth's crust and there is no shortage of titanium dioxide on a global scale.

As so often, however, campaigners against mining and other projects which damage the environment will do themselves no favours by neglecting to take into account the feelings of local people. My experiences in another part of Madagascar were that the people were afraid of the forests and that even well-educated Malagasies remain superstitious and fear harmless animals.

Educational programmes to convince local people of the importance of the forests to their own country and lifestyle, as well as to vazaha (foreigners), should be set up throughout Madagascar. The Worldwide Fund for Nature already runs an excellent programme based on the zoo in Antananarivo, but this is only available in the capital. Without such educational work, people in and around the proposed mining area will see the influx of money and, no doubt, free-spending foreigners as a welcome boost to the local economy. They may not realise that this will be a transient phenomenon which cannot be sustained.

A fund to allow high-quality environmental education throughout Madagascar would be the most fitting tribute to Andrew Lees, and I hope that Friends of the Earth and other environmental groups can set one up.

Yours faithfully PAUL K. MOSTYN Gorton, Manchester 9 January