Thanks to years of effort by some dedicated key individuals in and out of Government, the Graeme Hall Nature Sanctuary exists as a gateway and a guardian to the largest, and now the last remaining, healthy mangrove swamp on Barbados. This internationally recognized natural treasure has almost been lost many times in the past – to neglect, greed and development pressures.
But the Graeme Hall Nature Sanctuary only takes in 33 hectares, a small portion of the larger Graeme Hall mangrove swamp and wetlands. The battle to recover and preserve this important natural ecosystem continues between those who seek a sustainable future for Barbados and others who only have a selfish desire to convert one of the Caribbean's premier natural heritage sites into quick money.
Which vision will win out?
Do the Government and the people of Barbados have the long-term national will to preserve this treasure… or will they sell out their children's environmental and economic future for short term interests? (And yes, the economic future of Barbados is very dependent upon a sustainable and healthy environment.)
In this first article of a three-part series on the Graeme Hall Nature Sanctuary, Barbados Free Press looks at the recent designation of Graeme Hall Swamp as a "Wetland of International Importance" under the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands. Part 2 will look at the important role that wetlands play in a healthy ecological system and the direct relationship with the Barbados economy, while Part 3 will focus on the history and future of the Graeme Hall mangrove swamp and wetlands.
Congratulations & Thanks to Environment Minister Liz Thompson
Yes, you read that correctly. Although we have been critical of Environment Minister Elizabeth Thompson, we will give her a tip of the hat for her work to date in helping to achieve the Ramsar designation for a part of Graeme Hall mangrove swamp…
On April 12, 2006, 33 hectares of the Graeme Hall Swamp in Barbados was officially designated a "Wetland of International Importance" under the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands. This is a large step forward for the Barbados Government as they move toward sustainable development and improved water quality by the wise use and management of important wetlands sites such as Graeme Hall.
The Ramsar Convention on Wetlands, signed in Ramsar, Iran, in 1971, is an intergovernmental treaty which provides the framework for national action and international cooperation for the conservation and wise use of wetlands and their resources. There are presently 151 Contracting Parties to the Convention, with 1593 wetland sites, totaling 134.7 million hectares, designated for inclusion in the Ramsar List of Wetlands of International Importance.
Ramsar Designation Was Not An Easy Task For Minister Thompson
On February 2, 2006, the first World Wetlands Day ever celebrated in Barbados, Environment Minister Thompson made a passionate speech at the Graeme Hall Nature Sanctuary in support of a Ramsar designation. We have heard that the Minister and her staff worked hard to convince the Government to take this important step, and that success was not easily achieved – with some members of the government resisting. So once again, thanks to Minister Thompson and her staff for not giving up.
Two months later, on April 12, 2006, the Convention on Wetlands came into force for Barbados and part of the Graeme Hall Swamp was declared a "Wetland of International Importance".
Next in This Series: Graeme Hall Nature Sanctuary (Part 2) – Barbados Needs Wetlands
Links for this series
Ramsar Convention on Wetlands (Website)
Ramsar Convention on Wetlands (Barbados Data)
Graeme Hall Nature Sanctuary (Website)
Nation News "Special Place For Swamp" December 18, 2005
Photos borrowed from the Graeme Hall Nature Sanctuary Photo Gallery (but somehow, I don't think they will complain.)