Major Environmental Engineering study slams Barbados Government over imminent death of last Mangrove wetland. Government destroying RAMSAR natural heritage site.

“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

BFP Comments

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.

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20 Comments

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20 responses to “Major Environmental Engineering study slams Barbados Government over imminent death of last Mangrove wetland. Government destroying RAMSAR natural heritage site.

  1. .35

    To BFP editor: I am about 50 pages into the report (quickly read). This is a major environmental investigation of not only the wetlands but water quality and pollution in the general area and it makes me sick to my stomach because it looks so credible and scientific.

    This report is big and should be big in the news. CBC or one of the newspaprers must interview the authors. The report is important because of what it says and because it means that government lied to us and still lies to us about pollutions and our water quality.

  2. BFP

    Hello folks,

    Cliverton here in the early morning (225am B’town) reporting that the Graeme Hall Nature Sanctuary GHNS press release appears to have gone viral worldwide – with dozens of news organisations picking up on it.

    We know this from our Google alerts where we have standard searches in place for “Barbados +” about a hundred terms including “environment, economy, nature, wildlife, tourism, sustainable, development” etc. etc. etc.

    In comparison with previous GHNS press releases this one is generating serious news media interest. I have no opinion as to why that might be.

    Meanwhile, in another major environmental story – governments around the world are being cautioned about losing diversity of species of plants and animals as reported happening in the Graeme Hall study.

    Here’s a link for that story:

    http://news.scotsman.com/uk/Tenyear-plan-needed-to-save.6279273.jp

    I’ll put a short story up with a link when I get up tomorrow.

    Off to bed… alone again. 😦

    Clive

  3. Nostradamus

    Not to worry friends of the environment. Didn’t you see page 11 of the Barbados Advocate yesterday (May 6, 2010)? Your Minister of Environment Dr. Dennis Lowe is in New York and “….heads a delegation to the Review Session of the 4th Implementation Cycle on the Commission of Sustainable Development CSD-18, which started Monday May 03 and runs until Friday May 14.”

    I am sure when he returns he will respond to the issues raised in this study……..LOL.

  4. The object of the game

    Folks

    going to world functions with cocktails in your hands and spending precious government money is all about looking like you are doing something
    and getting elected.

    It has nothing to do with anything else and certainly not actually doing something for the Barbadian environment.

    There are no priority lists, no milestones to meet, no checklists of safeguards, no backups.

    Its all a furious game of pretend and bluff with absolutely no substance.

  5. oh my

    nostradamus if you heard what barbados representatives say when they go to international meetings and the un, you would think that barbados is the greenest place on earth where the government has the highest environmental standards of all the countries in the world.

  6. Permres

    This situation is very, very serious.
    It may require a legal demonstration in a public place, and, God willing, many thousands will turn out.

  7. John

    “Not only the business enterprise of Graeme Hall Nature Sanctuary, but the Ramsar Mangrove
    Ecosystem’s survival depends on reversing these harmful trends and preventing future negative
    impacts.”

    This statement caught my eye.

    My attention was also caught by the levels of Aldrin, Dieldrin present in the water tested.

    I recall when I read the 1978 Water Resources Study at the public library that the importation of Aldrin and Dieldrin had been banned for some time by the Pesticide Control Board.

    http://www.eco-usa.net/toxics/chemicals/aldrin.shtml

    DDT was also present.

    I also remember reading somewhere that DDT has a very long half life so am not surprised by its presence in the environment.

    I know DDT is a banned pesticide ……. for decades.

    I need to do a little reading on these three.

    The map of the catchment area was pretty interesting as I had always heard that the chemicals at Intel back in the 80’s were responsible for fish kills at Graeme Hall.

    Sheraton Centre where Intel used to be, is shown just outside of the catchment area although right on the border.

    There was heavy residential development going on in the catchment area from the 60’s onwards so much so that very little of it remains in agricultural use today. I suspect this change was mostly responsible.

    None of the residential development was sewered.

    In the North East corner of the catchment area there is some land that remains classified as agriculture pasture land.

    This is in the Kent area.

    There is a massive housing development being undertaken on these lands, South View, which will change their nature forever.

    These lands I believe were acquired by Government from the Webster family who owned plantations in the area back in the 60’s and seem to have found their way back into private ownership.

  8. Graeme Hall, Chancery Lane and Mullins Bay are all being sacrificed to make way for more condos. Maybe the real enemy here is condo development. Now that is it down owing to the global economic recession we should be kicking it harder.

  9. Adrian Loveridge

    SaveMullinsBay,

    The real enemy is not the condominium itself, but where they are located and the volume of them.

    I am afraid many of our tourism policymakers are unable or unwilling to see the BIGGER picture.

    The BHTA has just released accommodation occupancy levels comparing 2009 and 2010.

    There are some alarming results.

    IF the BHTA figures accurately their members and the entire accommodation sector, then February (our peak month) occupancy was down from 82% to 63%.
    Simply put if you average a room rate at US$200 per night, that meant we had around 2,590 hotel rooms EMPTY every single night of February at an estimated BDS$29 million cost in revenue loss.

    Of course, the figure could be much higher than this, due to the scores and probably hundreds of unlicensed accommodation providers that have been allowed under successive Governments to operate against the law of the land.

    BS$29 million may initially not sound like a huge amount of money, so to put it in perspective, it is just about 50% of the ANNUAL turnover of our single largest hotel group, taking into account their 3 hotels on Barbados and 2 in St. Lucia.

    Another area that I have not seen any forward planning or contingency for is the imminent opening (2012) of the new International Airport
    at Argyle in St. Vincent.
    This is clearly going to effect the occupancy levels
    of our accommodation providers for overnights, but a much bigger challenge exists.
    Many of the long stay visitors that currently transit Barbados will not have to do so after the opening of the airport.
    Therefore, loadings of existing flights into Barbados are going to be effected with the potential of airlines having to reduce frequency. The 32 islands making up the Grenadines will also become VERY much more attractive both in terms of being unspoilt and less expensive and this will inevitably effect long stay visitor arrivals to Barbados.

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  16. BFP

    Reblogged this on Barbados Free Press and commented:

    Here we are coming up on four years later and this story could have been written yesterday. A damned shame is all I can say. If the Graeme Hall Nature Sanctuary was open as in the past, it would be a wonderful attraction for the cruise ship visitors. God knows we need all the help we can get! Does anybody know the status of the dispute over this tourist attraction? Comments, please!

  17. It is about time that the truth came out. Barbados has been covering up water quality for years not publishing any facts or findings on watershed health and management. Its time that we all know!

  18. CJB

    “Still Closed – Why?”

    We visit this every time we are in Barbados with the hope that it might just be reopened. Yet every time the signs at the entrance get more and more faded. The cafe is open – just – but running it must be soul destroying – there are no visitors. This time the girl in the cafe insisted that we bought something more than just a coffee – just to visit the outer gardens.

    Sadly the inner gardens and lakeside paths are all well closed. The aviary is still nailed shut – how do the staff get in to clean it out – perhaps they don’t – perhaps there are no staff? And the Barbados Free Press now reports that the mains water supply has been cut off completely.

    We also hear that the incredibly rare nearly extinct St. Vincent parrots there – the national bird of St. Vincent – are no longer breeding and have been raided by thieves with one being killed. Also too the large fish in the Lake are being poached with no-one stopping this.

    The other issue is that the sluice gate that could allow sea water to replenish the lake and mangrove swamps have been kept closed and damned meaning that with pollution run-off and rainwater the lake and swamps are getting more ‘fresh’ effectively killing the mangroves and all the wildlife that they support.

    This is all a tragedy for an important Internationally recognised nature reserve.

  19. CJB

    BTW the link above is wrong – i guess it has been for 4 years!! It should be:

    http://www.graemehall.com/press/papers/Graeme%20Hall%20043010%20MEA.pdf

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