Graeme Hall Sanctuary “New Plans To Develop Most Of Graeme Hall Lands Will Kill Wetlands & Migratory Bird Site”

Barbados Free Press received the following press release from the Graeme Hall Nature Sanctuary almost a week ago, but frankly we had other more urgent stories to write about (the tourist attacks), so we didn’t get around to printing this release until now.

We must not however confuse the difference between “urgent” and “important”. The tourist attack story is both urgent and important. We at BFP believe that the issue of tourist safety and the growth of general lawlessness on the island could be made 90% better almost overnight if the current DLP government would recognise that the ability of the Royal Barbados Police Force to keep our island safe is the very foundation of our economy. The government should…

1/ Double police salaries immediately so as to attract better quality police officers.

2/ Triple the non-salary operational budget of the Royal Barbados Police Force to give them the tools they need to do the job.

3/ Immediately implement beach and tourist area police patrols and augment them with joint police – military patrols where the military members have sidearms only (ie: no rifles).

4/ Immediately implement intensive training for military members involved in the joint-patrols to orientate them to the differences between the public expectation and duties of police vs. military. (This joint military-police action is only short term for 1 year until police staffing levels can be increased)

5/ Fire the current Commissioner of Police and replace him with someone who loves the rule of law and has the leadership skills and vision to do the job.

Graeme Hall Wetlands To Be Developed By DLP Campaign Funder CLICO & Leroy Paris

Graeme Hall Wetlands To Be Developed By DLP Campaign Funder CLICO & Leroy Paris

Government of Barbados Intending To Develop Our Last Remaining Wetlands

The impending destruction of our last remaining wetlands at Graeme Hall and Long Beach does not seem to have the immediate urgency of the tourist attacks, but it is just as important in the next few years because if the developers and their corrupt politician friends continue as they have been doing this island will be nothing but a piece of concrete when they are finished. And just watch how many tourists find other venues when that day comes. Many are already fleeing Barbados for St. Lucia and other islands and this trend will continue in proportion to the amount of concrete we pour.

There is no dispute that the Thompson DLP Government of Barbados intends to develop the lands around Graeme Hall. One of Thompson’s first acts was to pass the law that changed the permissions on the land to allow this development.

Oh… did we mention that much of the land around Graeme Hall is owned by Prime Minister Thompson’s old friend and godfather to his daughter: Leroy Parris, CEO of CLICO?

And just yesterday two of our over-fed Government Ministers, Denis Lowe and Richard Sealy announced that the government was going to allow “responsible development” of the Long Beach wetlands. Saying “Responsible development of wetlands” is like saying “I’m going to rape your sister, but I’ll be gentle.”

Tell Us The Truth, PM Thompson!

Tell Us The Truth, PM Thompson!

We’d say that this DLP government, like the last BLP government, “Just doesn’t get it” about the environment, but that is not true… The DO “get it”. They have just decided that making money for their developer friends is what they are going to do.

Ladies and Gentlemen, read this press release from the Graeme Hall Nature Sanctuary and then at least you will know why your country’s last two wetlands areas are about to be destroyed…


Bridgetown, Barbados
MONDAY, March 9, 2009
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Graeme Hall Nature Sanctuary: A Legacy Lost?

From the field journal of Graeme Hall Nature Sanctuary’s naturalist, Ryan Chenery:

“During (my) most recent kayak trip on the lake I had the privilege of watching a Peregrine Falcon (at times no more than 20 feet overhead) effortlessly reaching mind-boggling speeds as it hunted bats at sunset.  As I paddled through the water I noticed millions of small white flies which had evidently just hatched – desperately seeking out a mate before they fell and died on the water all around me (an image not unlike a snowfall).   Osprey and Great Blue Herons called and sought roosting sites for the night amongst the mangroves, while in the distance the solitary figure of a juvenile Black-crowned Night Heron stirred to life in a small patch of White Mangroves to the west of the egret colony.   It is at times like these that I am struck by the magic of this place and am reminded of its staggering importance”
-Ryan Chenery, February 2009


[ Bridgetown , BARBADOS ]   Many have asked why Graeme Hall Nature Sanctuary is closed to the public.  It has been 13 weeks since the closure, and as of Monday  all employees except for a small maintenance and security team have been permanently severed from their jobs.

According to Peter Allard, Chairman of the Graeme Hall Nature Sanctuary, the decision to close was extraordinarily painful, as it affected the lives of many good men and women.  But the closure was inevitable because the physical survival of the Sanctuary is at stake.

“After spending nearly $35 million US on the Sanctuary and its operations over fifteen years, we finally realized the Sanctuary would not survive,” said Allard.

“We rely on a natural healthy ecosystem, along with its natural peace and tranquility, because it is the only “inventory” that the Sanctuary has to offer visitors.”

“It is not, as some would believe, about simple economics.  Increasing pollution and government policies and procedures outside of the Sanctuary are killing the wetlands at Graeme Hall, and no amount of continued investment inside the Sanctuary can change that.”

“It is simply not prudent or feasible for one man to continue supporting the Sanctuary in perpetuity.   The matter is further complicated when governmental policies and actions are dooming its ecosystem to failure.”

“I understand that the future of the Sanctuary is a national issue and that it is up to the people of Barbados to let their government know what they want.  Perhaps the academic and scientific community will step up as well, if only to preserve the very areas they wish to study,” observed Allard.

Allard ticked off a partial list of issues that led to the closure:

1. The physical survival of the Sanctuary is threatened by specific land use policies that have changed since the initial decision to invest in the Graeme Hall ecosystem.

“We would not have made the Graeme Hall Nature Sanctuary investment if we had known the upland buffer lands at Graeme Hall were, in fact, scheduled for massive re-classification to Predominantly Residential and Urban Corridor use.

“We made the investment in the Sanctuary based on our knowledge that the uplands and surrounding area would remain open natural parkland, as defined in the 1988 Barbados National Physical Development Plan (PDP) which was in force at the time.  We are knowledgeable about conservation investments, and our experience has shown that wetland and other conservation projects always need significant buffers around them, especially those in urban areas, otherwise polluted and excessive water runoff and other environmental disturbances will kill the natural ecological balance in the very area we are trying to protect.”

“Our investment began in 1993.  We envisioned an environmental centre that would anchor the approximately 240 acres of green parkland space at Graeme Hall.  Government already owned most of this land, and the 1988 PDP vision assured us that the original Graeme Hall green space between Greater Bridgetown and Oistins would always be there.  And in July, 1995, Mark Cummins, Chief Town Planner wrote us saying that the Sanctuary would indeed have appropriate buffers by saying, “The Planning Office has a very stringent policy on significant environmental areas, whose fragility is in need of protection.  It is felt that such areas require management as opposed to development and should be left for posterity.”

“Along with thousands of citizens, we were shocked to learn that the new 2003 PDP passed Parliament in early 2008,” recalled Allard.   “Everyone had hoped that the 2003 PDP legislation would be amended to reinstate the Graeme Hall green area as originally promised and legislated in the 1988 PDP.”

Citizen discussions, Town Hall meetings, notice to stakeholders and environmental impact studies were almost completely ignored by the government for the momentous land rezoning of green space at Graeme Hall.  It became more and more evident that government really wanted to proceed quietly and without fanfare to overturn the 1988 PDP recommendations for green space at Graeme Hall, and develop most of the area with commercial and residential land development.

2. The natural ecosystem inventory at the Sanctuary is being degraded by specific government-run environmental management practices and lack of environmental enforcement.

“Over the past 15 years scientists and naturalists have been observing increasing stress on the Graeme Hall ecosystem from surrounding pollution sources.  Examples include raw sewage, pesticides, contaminated stormwater and contaminated runoff such as fuel, cooking grease and other pollutants from homes and businesses.”

From water quality testing done by the University of the West Indies and others on waterbodies at Graeme Hall, measured pollutants include abnormally high levels of faecal coliforms from human sewage, high nitrogen from fertilizer and other runoff, corresponding low oxygen concentrations, high turbidity, and concentrations of carbon dioxide and hydrogen sulfide.

“One example of a catastrophic event was the government’s decision to bypass an approved emergency dump line and manually pump an estimated 3 to 6 million gallons of raw sewage into the closed Graeme Hall wetland without notification to the Sanctuary or the public. This was in direct violation of international health and environmental protocols, treaties and international lending requirements to which Barbados has signed.  This occurred as a result of a system failure in July 2005, and was authorized by the Barbados Water Authority.  The volume of raw sewage was enough to significantly contaminate all water bodies within the 35-acre Graeme Hall Nature Sanctuary, as well as the Sanctuary’s main spring.  The wetland no longer flushes naturally, so the contaminants accumulate on Sanctuary property and in the wetland.”

3. Despite formal Sanctuary offers to government to help with Worthing Beach sluice gate operations over the years, almost nothing has been done, resulting in significant environmental degradation at the Sanctuary.

“We experience massive fluctuations of water levels because the sluice gate is not operating.  This has contributed to increasingly unhealthy wetland waterbodies, including fish kills and mosquito infestations.  After nearly 15 years, mismanagement of the sluice gate and the elimination of traditional tidal flows into the wetland continues. Since August 2006, due to the inoperative sluice gate, the Ministry of Public Works controls water levels in Graeme Hall Swamp using a backhoe to add or remove sand fill in the sluice gate channel.”

4. Despite being the largest and most significant private conservation stakeholder on the South Coast , the Sanctuary has been pointedly excluded from the majority of discussions, meetings and activities that directly impact environmental management of the Graeme Hall wetland.  In addition, the Sanctuary has never been formally notified of any pending land use applications at Graeme Hall which may adversely affect the health of the wetland.

“One example occurred in 2004.  Rumours of a potential Water Park in the 1988 PDP green space area began circulating.  The fact that the apparent application for the Water Park was being considered was in itself surprising, since the 2003 PDP which advocated urban corridor use of Graeme Hall lands was still in draft form and had not actually been ratified by Parliament.”

“The issue became more confusing when then Prime Minister Owen Arthur advised us that he knew nothing of the Water Park application to Town and Country Planning and described such a development as “madness”.  But then it was discovered that an application had in fact been made to Town and Country Planning, and that it was to occupy high profile and sensitive green area at Graeme Hall formerly designated as open/natural space in the 1988 PDP.

“When citizens became aware of the Water Park development application they immediately rallied in the thousands and signed a petition for preservation of the area and the creation of a National Park at Graeme Hall.  The initiative was defeated, but the problem of potential development remains because land use policy at Graeme Hall still advocates Predominantly Residential.”

5. “The Sanctuary has invested heavily in environmental education and capacity-building for the government of Barbados , but because there has been no proactive participation from government, there appears to be no tangible benefit to the environment or the Graeme Hall wetland as a result of this investment.

“There have been no tangible responses to our significant offers of philanthropic or partner support for government-led environmental, scientific, public health, recreational and educational initiatives.

“But government disinterest was particularly evident several years ago after the Sanctuary funded an all-expense paid trip for government environmental engineers to learn about wetland management technologies at the South Florida Water Management District agency in Florida .  This was a technical capacity-building opportunity for the Ministry of Environment and Ministry of Public Works, however when the trip was over there was no change in environmental intentions or services by government, the sluice gate continued to be inoperative, and no additional civil works studies were initiated within the wetland or the upland buffers.”

“Furthermore, to my knowledge, neither the current or previous Prime Minister has visited the Sanctuary or otherwise shown an interest in these offers of support.”

“Proactive government participation, control of pollution source points and land use policy in the environmental buffers outside the Sanctuary are not controlled by us,” said Allard.  “These shortfalls cannot be offset by more money invested at the Sanctuary.  It is a no-win situation.”

“The new government came to power as a result of a number of promises, one of which was the protection of Graeme Hall, but soon after being elected they passed the 2003 amended PDP.  Although no applications to our knowledge have as yet been filed to develop the upper lands, it became clear to us very quickly that growing environmental pollution plus the new plans to develop most of the Graeme Hall lands would kill the already fragile wetland and migratory bird site at Graeme Hall,” said Allard.

“In 2007 we had been assured by both BLP and DLP members who were active in Parliament that the 2003 PDP could be passed with a rider that would reinstate the 1988 PDP recommendation to preserve the 240-acre Graeme Hall green space.  They told us this could be done prior to the final ratification vote, especially since there was so much public support for the national park at Graeme Hall.”

The assurances turned out to be empty.

As of today, March 9, 2009, Sanctuary officials confirmed that there was still no word from Government on any new intentions regarding the Sanctuary.

Will future generations of Barbadian children and families and visitors be denied this magic of green space and biodiversity on the South Coast ?

More information can be found at:

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Filed under Barbados, Barbados Tourism, Consumer Issues, Environment, Offshore Investments, Political Corruption, Politics, Politics & Corruption, Tourism, Traveling and Tourism, Wildlife

24 responses to “Graeme Hall Sanctuary “New Plans To Develop Most Of Graeme Hall Lands Will Kill Wetlands & Migratory Bird Site”

  1. Green Monkey

    This is a snip from an editorial in the Honolulu Star Bulletin discussing the way forward for Hawaii’s tourist industry:

    The City and County of Honolulu and the state might need to take another look at the “master plan” and realize that this expansion and endless construction is turning Hawaii from a tropical paradise to an urban jungle of cement; it is hardly an environment that will entice visitors. A moratorium on granting permits to build huge skyscrapers and massive hotels might be a good start.

    Our own politicians and millionaire developers know better apparently – nothing a tourist more likes to to see than obscene, big-@ss, concrete condos blocking the view.

  2. Hants

    BFP can you tell us if Peter Allard is the owner of Graeme Hall Nature Sanctuary and also the Peter Allard who is involved in the lawsuit against members of the Barbados government with regards to Kingsland,Keltruth,Deane,Knox et all?

    I am trying to see if there may be a legal reason why Government is not “cooperating ” with Peter Allard.

  3. Hants

    I have this feeling that Natural events will decide the fate of Graeme Hall Swamp and Long Beach wetlands.

    Also BFP. Your previous articles suggested that CLICO was in deep trouble but now they will have say $20 million to develop land at Graeme Hall?

    Unless there is some middle eastern prince flush with cash willing to spend it in Barbados, there will be no development at Graeme Hall,Long or Short Beach.

    There will be a lot of planting of food.

  4. Chicago

    Three year from now this economic morass will be forgotten, CLICO will have been bailed out and still own the land at Graeme Hall. Then the condos will start sprouting.

    Hants, your advice to not worry about it because nobody has any money now is foolish.

  5. Hants

    Three years from now this economic morass will continue.

    The present Government is not likely to allow development in these areas as long as BFP keeps up the “political pressure”.

    Read pages 32 and 33 of todays Advocate.

    BFP is gaining credibility.

  6. reality check

    If anyone has any doubts that the fix is in go to the Graeme Hall site
    and look at the 100-year Floodplain under the Map section.

    This Floodplain using government maps was used to define what would go into the the Ramsar wetland treaty declaration. Oddly enough the 10 acres owned by Clico on the lands immediately to the east of the Lake are clearly in the Floodplain but were deliberately excluded from the Ramsar Treaty. Who at the Ministry of Environment allowed this travesty?

    Remember this was done under a BLP administration so the influence of Clico was sufficient to flout international treaty determination and the wishes of many thousands of people who wanted a National Park on the full 240 acres.

    Now the citizens are bailing out Clico after they denied future generations of Barbadians a green space to bring their children to play and enjoy some quiet time from the endless miles of concrete.

    Green space without proper buffers and sound management are meaningless to the creation of a National Park.

  7. Nostradamus

    @ Hants

    Hants said “I am trying to see if there may be a legal reason why Government is not “cooperating” with Peter Allard.”

    GHNS release said “government policies and procedures outside of the Sanctuary are killing the wetlands at Graeme Hall, and no amount of continued investment inside the Sanctuary can change that.”

    Hants, our Government, the Government of Barbados, designated the Sanctuary and wetlands a Natural Heritage Conservation Area and Ramsar site. By so doing they were and are under an obligation, through their policies and actions, to protect the site and “cooperate” with all stakeholders in doing so.

    So what is this rubbish about not “cooperating”? They so childish that they are going to mash up the place? Who are they hurting? Allard? Are they going cut their nose to spite their face? Allard only owns the Sanctuary but it belongs to the citizens of this country. Remember Allard only owns the eastern half of the wetland so the western half, owned by the Government and people of Barbados is also being destroyed.

    If there is some legal reason for not “cooperating” then Government should come out at tell the people who elected them.

  8. Green Monkey

    Youtube video “Consuming the Ecosphere”:

    University of British Columbia Professor William Rees argues that humans are now exceeding the rate at which nature is producing resources – a fundamental imbalance between the human enterprise and nature – and we’re literally consuming the ecosphere from the inside out.

  9. How many Bajans came to see Graeme Hall when open to all citizen? That was a small percentage of the population. When talking to your average working Bajan about Graeme Hall and what will happen, I again get the shrugging of the shoulders with the answer “that’s the way they do things around here.”
    Unless the media (The Barbados Nation) gets involved with more information to rouse more interest, I feel Graeme Hall is doomed and one more of the few places of natural beauty left will be sold off to be used for building of cement monsters.

  10. Mike Ashby

    BFP you are right on

    I must say that the current government (and probably the previous one) just do not understand the implications of their actions in dealing with the GHNR situation. On several separate occasions, Barbados has gone in front of the international scientific community and stated “these” are our plans for the environment in the near-term and long-term future. The documents below are examples of a few of these planning stratigies.

    1.) The “Physical Development Plan 1970 (Amended 1986; 2003)” particularly attention should be paid to Sections 2 and 4.

    2.) In 1988, the then leaders published the “National Plan for the Physical Environment”, it is this document that addressed the zoning of the area south of the ABC H’way and it is that zoning that Peter Allard and others relied on to development the GHNR. it is this specific document the current DLP made a point of changing last year, bringing about the demise of the GHNR within one year.

    3.) In 1994, the first Global Conference on the Sustainable Development of SIDS (Small Island Developing States) took placed in Barbados. Since that Conference, the United Nations has adopted a program called “the Barbados Programme of Action (BPOA)” that set forth specific actions and measures to be taken at the national, regional and international levels in support of sustainable development within SIDS.

    4.) The BLP finalized the “National Strategic Plan for Barbados 2006-2025”. Under goal #4 the government pointed out efforts that will be undertaken to preserve the natural environment.

    There are several other documents of varying technicality out there but I would like for readers to get a copy of the above documents and read them. In each situation, the government of Barbados stipulated its plans for managing the natural environment in light of future economic growth. However, all actions/positions taken by the past and current government indicate that the “natural environment” is disposable. The problem is (see Peter Allard statement above), what the Barbados government is doing is disingenuous and dishonest. It is telling the international community one thing and every opportunity it gets, it does something different. It is a fallacy for us to believe that we will continue to be taken seriously outside of Barbados.

    It is this kind of dishonesty and foot-dragging that enable Shell to get away with the contamination of a large area of Gibbons Bogs without having to be held accountable. Barbadians have to remind members of the government that they serve at the wishes of the people and there are consequences to their action. If I am not mistaken, the GHNR falls within the Christ Church South Central election district. The people in the area and across the island should attach the career of the current MP (and DLP) to the outcome of this situation. I beg you.

  11. Mike Ashby

    Last week Monday (March 9, 2009) a Barbados Coastal Zone Management official, Dr Leo Brewster, observed that

    “A Barbados with no coral reefs will result in no beaches, harsh wave environments, fewer fish, scant tourists, few jobs and a struggling economy.”

    He made this observation at the launch of the ‘Oistins Reef Ball Gardens Project: A Solution to Coral Depletion and Community Livelihoods in Oistins’. He described the island’s coral reefs as “spectacularly beautiful ecosystems” and of “greatest structural significance to the foundation of this island,” “In their primary function as natural barriers to waves, the value of reefs, with regard to natural shoreline protection, is equivalent to millions of dollars. As such, coral reefs form the basis of our tourism product”.

    I think that this is a very impressive observation. However, I would like to remind the doctor that like corals, mangroves play a very similar, if not more important role in ecosystem health. I am also quite sure that there are others on the island that can actually see the important connection between our natural environment and our future ability to maintain a viable livelihood. I hope that Dr. Brewster and other like-minded individuals can convince our leaders that like our coastal zone, open green spaces such as the Graeme Hall Wetlands are very important to our future well being.

  12. BajanPrince

    First and for most I am tired with having to hear that a nice green space in Barbados is going to be developed!!!! Secondly, I am PISSED off at the Barbados government. They don’t care about Barbados at all!!! At they care about is de all mighty dolla. They don’t care about the environment. They are CORRUPT, DISQUISTING, AND CONS!!!!!!! De Barbados government should be OVERTHROWN!!!! Graeme Hall is a nice area to get away from all de hustle and bustle. Long Beach is probably de most beautiful beach and Barbados and in de WORLD!!!! If they develop these two areas with concrete monsters then I am done with the island!!! Tourism is NOT just aboud de hotels and condos its also about de environment and culture. That is why ECO-TOURISM was invented. De Barbados government can’t complain when tourist flee to those not yet overdeveloped island!!!!! This is a message tuh Thompson and de rest of de Barbados government, STOP DEVELOPING THE BEAUTIFUL ISLAND OF BARBADOS with concrete horrors. Barbados is a beautiful island and deserves to be treated as such.

  13. yatinkiteasy

    Heard on the news today that Mr Thompson is providing the owners of Graeme Hall with $1million
    to “help them out.” That is not what is on the table!..Its the PROTECTION of the ecosystem that the owners want. A million dollars is a joke, even though the PM may think its a big enough bribe to get them to reopen…it wont happen, and I`m surprised that a supposedly smart man cant see what a dumb move this was.

  14. Mike Ashby


    Maybe you can clarify this for me, because, if it is true that Mr. Thompson is offering one million dollars to “help them out”, then this is a very sad state of affairs. It would indicate that he and other members of our government have totally misunderstood what the issues are. I would hope that it isn’t representative of their overall decision making process.

  15. Pingback: Barbados Government Confirms Plans To Develop Graeme Hall Wetlands. Thompson’s Million-Dollar Lie « Barbados Free Press

  16. WildyCoyte.

    Oh well,we replaced one slimey tief with a brand new spanking

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  20. Matthew Kerins

    Where are all the friends of Gram Hall that fought the water park, maybe they should put there money where there mouth is and save the bird sanctuary; or was it just a smoke screen for their personal interest. Maybe Caribean Splash wasn’t such a bad idea after all, instead of a commercial development that destroys the bird sanctuary. Where is Peter now?

    Matthew Kerins

  21. Sympathetic

    Mr. Kerins,

    Instead of taking your ire out on Barbadians who love their country and sought to protect its environment, you should be exposing those who took your money and misled you into thinking that Town Planning would approve your Caribbean Splash application.

    They are the people who abused you and took advantage of your well intentioned desire to develop a water park.

  22. One who knows

    Lick ’em, pick ’em and move ’em out! Kerins fell for the old Bajan “you need a consultant” routine. Paid his money, met with Owen Arthur and that impressed the hell out a him so he paid even more money. Got a wink and a nod and hired another suggested “consultant” for the “workup”. Walked around the land and met with Owen Arthur a second time. Got a wink and a nod and hired another “environmental consultant”. Paid more money.

    Then thousands of citizens rebelled at the idea of a water park near the RAMSAR wetlands. Surprised the shit out of Owen Arthur who thought the sheeple would take it like always. Kerins had a third meeting with Arthur where he got another wink and a nod but when it threatened to turn into a big election issue and Kerins mouthed off about “government can’t back out” that finished him.

    Another sucker leaves Bim with a much lighter wallet after falling for the old “you need to hire a consultant” game.

    All it takes are the connections to meet with the PM and a “consultant” can pick a pocket faster than a gutting a fish for a cutter.

    I hope Kerins is much wiser about how things run along in Barbados!

  23. Half Right

    Kerins wonders where the people are who said they supported a people’s park at Graeme Hall. They are there and they be quiet these days, but make no mistake: If anyone tries to build on Graeme Hall there will be hell to pay.

  24. Hants

    No water parks should be built in water scarce Barbados. Ever.