“The investment in the Sanctuary was supposed to be part of a sustainable environmental initiative, dependent on government leadership. As the largest private environmental stakeholder in Barbados, we continue to invest hundreds of thousands of dollars annually to maintain the Sanctuary, but we all have to face the fact that it’s Government who is killing the wetland. The study shows that our environmental commitment and investment cannot withstand this assault.”
… Graeme Hall Nature Sanctuary owner Peter Allard in a May 6, 2010 press release.
Unchecked pollution, government inaction puts migratory bird stop at risk
A new environmental study sharply critical of the Government of Barbados shows the key Graeme Hall mangrove wetland is disappearing due to outside pollution and poor water quality.
The Graeme Hall wetland is the last remaining mangrove in Barbados – a red mangrove forest that has existed for no less than 1,300 years. It is the only wetland in Barbados recognized internationally under the Convention on Wetlands of International Importance (Ramsar). It acts as a Caribbean flyway stop for migratory birds between North and South America.
The extensive 800 page study (download PDF here) prepared for the Graeme Hall Nature Sanctuary by Environmental Engineering Consultants of Tampa, Florida shows the Sanctuary has suffered a 77 per cent reduction in salinity in the past ten years due to an inoperative government-run sluice gate. The huge reduction signals “an inevitable failure of the mangrove ecosystem” as freshwater flora and fauna take over.
The study also cites damaging factors including: dumping of raw sewage into the wetland instead of the sea by the South Coast Sewage Treatment Plant; contaminated storm water runoff originating from 1,150 acres of government-managed drainage systems; and, commercial and residential pollutants from adjoining properties.
“The government owned and operated sluice gate failure confirms our worst fears,” said Stuart Heaslet, an official with Graeme Hall Nature Sanctuary. “It means that as the mangrove forest dies, it will not grow back because freshwater plants are taking over.”
The original environmental investment in the Sanctuary was based on the area being protected as a brackish mangrove ecosystem.
“The study confirms that Government-controlled pollution is being dumped into the wetland. Despite our formal offers of technical and financial assistance to government, there has been no response. We can’t defend ourselves against pollution and environmental mismanagement outside our boundaries. Bird counts are down, crabs are disappearing, and we are seeing environmental degradation everywhere.”
Graeme Hall Nature Sanctuary occupies 42 per cent of the Ramsar wetland at Graeme Hall, and is owned by Peter Allard, a Canadian investor and philanthropist who has put more than US $35 million into the 35-acre eco-tourism site to preserve the last significant mangrove woodland and wetland on the island.
“The investment in the Sanctuary was supposed to be part of a sustainable environmental initiative, dependent on government leadership,” said Allard. “As the largest private environmental stakeholder in Barbados, we continue to invest hundreds of thousands of dollars annually to maintain the Sanctuary, but we all have to face the fact that it’s Government who is killing the wetland. The study shows that our environmental commitment and investment cannot withstand this assault.”
… continue reading this major Environmental Engineering study by downloading the PDF from the Graeme Hall Nature Sanctuary
We’ll have more to say tomorrow morning after we digest the entire study, but the first 20 pages leave us shocked, saddened and angry at the devastation being wrought by our government.
No doubt this will be a major discussion topic at next week’s Caribbean Conference on Sustainable Tourism Development being held from May 9 through 12, 2010 in Bridgetown, Barbados. Here’s how the conference website describes the theme of this year’s meeting…
The theme for the Caribbean Tourism Organization’s 11th Annual Conference on Sustainable Tourism Development (STC-11) is “Creating Opportunities through a World Class Sustainable Tourism Product”. STC-11 will focus on how to capitalize on opportunities to enhance and sustain our tourism product by identifying and valuing unique and indigenous aspects of our tangible and intangible heritage which need to be conserved for the enjoyment of our citizens and visitors.
Issues to be discussed will include the need for destination stewardship and conservation of our heritage assets in the face of various threats; the use of innovation and creativity to develop, interpret and market our heritage tourism products responsibly; the financing of sustainable tourism projects; enriching the visitor experience and the role of public, private and non-governmental organizations and communities in doing so.
Valuable learning opportunities will be provided through the sharing of local and international best practices. Delegates will also be able to participate in interesting discussions and study tours that will showcase how the host country, Barbados, conserves and manages its natural, cultural and built heritage and addresses associated challenges.
Yup, a tour to the Graeme Hall Nature Sanctuary while reading a copy of the report should prove to be most interesting for the delegates.