A few days ago, Margaret Knight asked us… “BFP: When are you going to take up the issue of Graeme Hall again? Is there an update on what’s going on there?”
We had an interesting little conversation with Margaret that you can read starting here, part of which was me remembering some articles I came across a few weeks ago about how Myanmar’s coastal areas were needlessly destroyed last May by cyclone Nargis.
Myanmar Satellite Photos 1995 (top) & 2000
I say “needlessly destroyed” because the experts agree that the terrible devastation was greatly attributable to the fact that Myanmar’s mangrove wetlands had been removed by logging and development.
These two satellite photos show how an uncaring Myanmar government and people cleared and filled vast areas of mangrove wetlands between 1995 and 2000. The red colour indicates mangrove wetlands in 1995 (top photo) and then in 2000.
“Large-scale destruction of mangroves contributed heavily to the damage inflicted by cyclone Nargis in Myanmar… says the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).” (link here)
When Cyclone Nargis struck, there was little natural protective barrier against the storm’s 120 mph winds. A wall of water slammed across the low-lying, densely populated Irrawaddy delta region, killing at least 78,000 people.
But mangrove wetlands are not just about protecting coastal areas from once-a-decade events – they are an incredible natural filter that cleans the environment and directly or indirectly supports wildlife, fisheries and plant life that simply couldn’t exist without mangroves.
Here are a few quotes from a very well written and researched article in a Manila newspaper (link here) …
“There were, at one time, according to the World Mangrove Atlas (International Society for Mangrove Ecosystems, Okinawa, Japan, 1997), more than 200,000 square kilometers of mangrove forests in tropical and subtropical coastlines all over the world… The rate of loss is faster in developing countries where in the last 25 years 35 percent to 86 percent of mangrove forests have been destroyed, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations.
What are the known consequences of mangrove deforestation?
Mangrove ecosystems are an integral part of terrestrial and marine food webs. Their destruction will have an immediate effect on fishery productivity. Mangroves also protect seaweed beds and coral reefs against river-borne silts and serve as breeding ground of certain species of fish that thrive in brackish water.
They also maintain salt marshes as filters of industrial and household wastes…
Mangrove forests function both as an atmospheric CO2 sink and a source of ocean carbon. They are important in the effort to slow down global warming. (E. McLeod and R.V. Salm, Managing Mangroves for Resilience to Climate Change, IUCN, 2006)
Finally, as said earlier, mangrove forests protect human settlements near coastlines from rising seas, storm surges and tsunamis. Myanmar, Thailand, Indonesia and India are object lessons.”
Graeme Hall Mangrove Wetland & Watershed
Graeme Hall: The Last Mangrove Wetland In Barbados
Margaret Knight asked if we knew what is happening with the effort to have the government declare a National Park at Graeme Hall and to forever secure this natural treasure for the future.
Friends, the truth is, as far as we know… nothing is happening with the National Park at Graeme Hall. Both the previous and current governments said some fine words about Graeme Hall – but nothing has been done by either to create the park.
Sir David Simmons Threatened To Block National Park for Personal Reasons
According to some, it might be a little more complex than that though…
Under the past Arthur/Mottley BLP Government, the Chief Justice of Barbados, Sir David Simmons, threatened to use his political influence to block the creation of a national park at Graeme Hall unless a lawsuit against him is dropped.
How a personal lawsuit against the man David Simmons (ie: not against the position of Chief Justice – only against the private individual David Simmons) relates to the Graeme Hall National Park, I haven’t a clue – but there are apparently tape recordings of David Simmons threatening to block the park, so I don’t doubt he said it. (background here)
So the two questions I have are these:
1/ For whatever reason, why should a single man have the power to block a national park that all Bajans will benefit from?
2/ Does David Simmons still have so much influence with the current government that he can continue to block the creation of a national park at Graeme Hall?
Thousands of citizens have signed the petition to create a National Park at Graeme Hall, but unless and until the government of Prime Minister David Thompson decides that preserving the environment, attracting high-end eco-tourists and doing something against Global Warming are priorities, the last remaining mangrove wetland on Barbados will be at risk.
The Graeme Hall Nature Sanctuary just released a wonderful new promotional video that shows what a treasure this area is to Barbados and how the encroaching development is threatening this last patch of green on the south coast. The sanctuary also released a study on the wetland that we will cover in a further article.
You can check out the video here, and visit the Graeme Hall Nature Sanctuary website here.
If anyone knows of any recent developments, please let us know in the comments section of this article.