One day’s work on Graeme Hall sluice gate proves 15 years of neglect by Barbados Government

UPDATED: January 20, 2012

We see The Nation carried the Barbados Government Information Service announcement that Worthing Beach was to be closed on January 19th “while the sluice gates at the beach are opened for routine maintenance.”

The last time this happened (on November 12, 2010 – see below) there was no real maintenance on the sluice gates – the government just moved the pile of sand blocking the channel. This is a big deal, my friends, because developer friends of the government want the wetlands killed so they can build on them. The long term abuse of leaving the sluice gate broken is designed to kill the last mangrove forest in Barbados so the friends of government can profit from developing the wetlands.

QUESTION: Was this “routine maintenance” of the Graeme Hall wetlands sluice gate merely removing the sand again… or did they repair the broken sluice gate so the mangrove swamp can be refreshed and “breathe” from the sea?

GRAEME HALL NATURE SANCTUARY: Let’s hear from you! What is the truth?

NOTE: See the comments for a reader reporting that the gate was NOT repaired on the 19th. The operation only involved moving sand – and the channel was damaged.

UPDATED: November 12, 2010

Government announcement was a Sham.

No repairs made to Graeme Hall sluice gate.

Last mangrove forest dying before our eyes.

The announced repairs to the sluice gate at the Graeme Hall wetlands never happened. Government workers arrived and did their usual digging out of the sand, then filled in the channel a day later after draining some water. The gates were not repaired or replaced.

The deliberate destruction of a precious natural heritage site continues. Government is obviously doing this out of vindictiveness in the ongoing legal dispute with Graeme Hall Nature Sanctuary owner Peter Allard.

It just shows you that Government officials think the wetlands and green space are theirs to destroy and develop.

Those wetlands and green space belong to the people of Barbados. Peter Allard spent tens of millions of dollars cleaning up the wetlands and volunteered to look after them for us for a while. It was his generous gift to the people of Barbados, but the developer friends of government had other ideas. So Allard he shut down his Nature Sanctuary and Barbados lost big time: 100 jobs, green space, tourism and hope for the future – all gone.

Here’s our original story: Read it ‘an weep…

Repair on sluice gate a result of lawsuit or new-found environmental conscience?

Ian Bourne’s Bajan Reporter says that the Government of Barbados is finally displaying a conscience because the Drainage Division will be working on the forever-broken Graeme Hall sluice gate for 14 hours today, Friday October 29, 2010.

For over a decade two successive governments deliberately neglected the sluice gate in an attempt to destroy the Graeme Hall wetlands so they can be sold and developed for profit.

As a direct result of a sluice gate left broken for fifteen years…

– The last mangrove forest on the island is dying, perhaps irreversibly on its way out.

A premier tourist attraction, the Graeme Hall Nature Sanctuary, closed with the loss of a hundred jobs.

– An international complaint was lodged against Barbados by nature sanctuary owner Peter Allard.

– International investors and philanthropists look upon Barbados with suspicion after Allard shut down his sanctuary and gave his millions elsewhere. Many observers believe that what happened to the Canadian philanthropist Peter Allard (and some other foreign investors) could happen to anyone. We’re not so sure they are wrong.

You think the world doesn’t know what happened in Barbados?

Now we’re told that a lousy 14 hours of work will solve the whole thing?

THAT IS DISGUSTING!

What an indictment of the BLP and DLP governments!

Denis Lowe, Minister of destroying the Environment

What an indictment of the Ministry of the Environment! What an indictment of dozens of business and political elites who destroyed our natural heritage for … for why?

Was it done for cash? Profit? Hate? Personal vendetta? A mixture of everything?

Whatever the reasons for the government elites’ selfish and outright criminal neglect of this precious natural resource, you won’t find Barbados Free Press congratulating the government for finally doing the right thing as the result of an international lawsuit.

It will take a decade of government work and interest to even start to repair the damage.

Until that time, Ian Bourne is right: the government elites can kiss the bottoms of all Bajans for the terrible crime and damage against Barbados.

Sanctuary owner Peter Allard addresses all Barbadians

Until we read Ian Bourne’s article and followed a couple of his links we at BFP were unaware that Graeme Hall Nature Sanctuary owner Peter Allard published an open letter to Barbadians on October 9, 2010.

Here it is published in full…

Thoughts from Peter Allard

Peter Allard

Dear Friends,

It is with extreme regret that we must continue to keep the Exhibits, Aviaries and Interpretive trails closed at to the general public at the Graeme Hall Nature Sanctuary. However, the Lakeside Lawn is open so that people may come and have a snack or refreshment while enjoying the view of the Lake.

Over the past 15 years we spent about US $35 million to help restore our portion of the Graeme Hall Wetland, now designated as a RAMSAR site, a wetland of international importance recognized by the Convention on Wetlands Treaty.

Many know the Sanctuary as being the finest nature park in Barbados, home to the last significant mangrove and sedge wetland on the island. To preserve the area, less than 10% of the Sanctuary’s habitat has been developed with interpretive exhibits, trails and support facilities.

It has been a major centre for environmental conservation, education and research.

But the sad fact is that the Sanctuary and the wetland are under severe assaults from the outside. These assaults are not controlled by us and threaten not just the health of the wetland, but its very survival.

After years of fruitless pleading with the Government of Barbados to repair critical environmental control structures and enforce environmental laws, in 2009 we were compelled to file formal complaints with the Ministry of the Environment. These complaints allege that Barbados has violated the Convention on Wetlands and the Convention on Biodiversity Treaties, as well as the Canada-Barbados Investment Tax Treaty.

The complaints are on our website:   www.graemehall.com/legal/.

These complaints allege that for over a decade, de-facto policies have been adopted by Government that allow continuous and increasing pollution including raw sewage dumping, encourage high density land development immediately adjacent to the wetland, and ignore environmental stakeholder interests within the site.

There have been increasing fish and crab kills in recent years along with unpredictable water levels and toxic algae blooms.

What may be the ultimate death knell for the wetland is this: A recent Study (Mangrove Ecosystem Assessment, www.graemehall.com/reference) conducted by noted environmental scientists from the United States confirms that the ecosystem has become essentially a freshwater system rather than a brackish estuarine system. Seawater is unable to enter the wetland because of a government-controlled and mismanaged sluice gate that controls drainage and tidal seawater charges, and because government-sanctioned development has closed off other traditional sea-to-wetland waterways.

As a result, freshwater drainage is now overwhelming the wetland, and while Barbados’ most significant mangrove woodland can indeed survive in fresh water, any open area in the mangrove system caused by catastrophic hurricane, fire or disease will mean that the mangrove will not grow back.

The Study conclusions are clear. Once the mangrove forest dies, freshwater organisms will compete with and dominate any fledgling mangrove system trying to restore itself.

If the government of Barbados does nothing to study and correct the situation using sound science, the disappearance of the mangrove forest is all but assured.

No private investment in a nature reserve can possibly withstand such external forces. Ultimately, environmental protections for multiple generations must stem from government leadership, whose environmental policies must be based in sound science, not politics.

Most of us know that environmental preservation comes at a price that is not easily justified using common economic investment rules. But we believe that the Sanctuary and its associated 240-acre wetland and upland buffer lands are to Barbados what the 842-acre Central Park was to New York nearly 140 years ago.

We were pleased to see that in 2007 over 6,000 Barbadians signed a Friends of Graeme Hall petition (www.graemehallnationalpark.org) in favor of creating the 240-acre Graeme Hall National Park. As the largest green space on the South Coast between the Airport and Bridgetown, the proposed National Park would include the designated 81-acre RAMSAR wetland, the 35-acre Sanctuary, and recreational lands.

Unfortunately, despite the citizen Petition for a national park, a new government zoning policy calls for commercial and residential development for the majority of the area. You can see the changes in our Resources Section on our website:

http://graemehall.com/press/papers/ThenNowMap1.pdf

In fact, the proposed 240-acre National Park at Graeme Hall is comprised of lands that were originally recommended for protection under the 1988 Barbados National Physical Development Plan.

The 1988 Physical Development Plan was developed by visionary land use experts from Barbados and the United Nations. In conformance with good urban planning practices, it promised that approximately 300 acres would be preserved as a green buffer  for conservation and recreation between the urban areas of Greater Bridgetown and Oistins.

This influenced our decision to acquire Sanctuary lands in 1994 as the 1988 Physical Development Plan assured us that the lands around the conservation investment would be kept as protective buffers for the sensitive wetland habitat.

But according to the new 2003 Physical Development Plan now advocated by Government, residential and commercial development will be at our doorstep, stopped only by the 100-year floodplain boundary.  The Government plan does not lead with proactive policy to provide buffers for the wetland or preserve parkland.

Given that the only protected area is within the 100-year floodplain, it means that the people of Barbados will lose all the high ground originally promised as parkland.

As someone once told us, it will soon be nearly impossible for a child to find a place to ride a bicycle safely or for a family to have a picnic in a tranquil place on the South Coast.

Can we put a price on such things when they are lost?

It is up to the people of Barbados to determine what they want to do to preserve the 240-acre green space at Graeme Hall, of which the Sanctuary is a part.

f you want to save Graeme Hall and support the effort to create Graeme Hall National Park, we encourage you to contact The Friends of Graeme Hall (www.graemehallnationalpark.org) and work with them to convince the leaders of Barbados to do the right thing. You can also meet with other concerned people on the Internet, such as on Facebook’s  Save Graeme Hall Nature Sanctuary social network group.

More details about the Sanctuary and land use policies at Graeme Hall can be found at our Press and Reference Centres.

Sincerely,
Peter A. Allard
Chairman

October 9, 2010

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45 Comments

Filed under Barbados, Barbados Tourism, Corruption, Disaster, Environment, Ethics, Offshore Investments, Political Corruption, Politics, Politics & Corruption, Wildlife

45 responses to “One day’s work on Graeme Hall sluice gate proves 15 years of neglect by Barbados Government

  1. :-)

    Only one person allowed to kiss Shona anywhere near that place! 😉

  2. Actually I meant it that Shona was supposedly saying Lowe could …. ahem! But seriously? I really hope this is not just a once in a blue moon activity sent to say to Bajans that there is a new “Sheriff” in town? PM Stuart has a lot more to do than just this initial service here in Worthing if he is genuine in his desire to prove new leadership…

  3. bajan kidd

    well at least the current administration is paying attention.

  4. WHISTLING FROM

    Of course David may have been trying to do a thing for Clico who own some of the land abounding the swamp. Maybe now he’s gone, somehting in the interest of BARBADIANS will emerge….

  5. what will they think of next

    You all know very well that whenever the Sluice gate is opened that residents and businesses in the area raise a big stink about it.
    So saying that, “For over a decade two successive governments deliberately neglected the sluice gate in an attempt to destroy the Graeme Hall wetlands so they can be sold and developed for profit.” is not true, but you are saying it anyway.
    While you care more about the Graeme Hall wetlands residents and businesses in the area care about their livelihoods and their environment which you and Allard don’t give a damn about. The interests of Graeme Hall wetlands and the interests of the residents and businesses around Graeme Hall wetlands are not the same. You need to resolve that.

  6. St George's Dragon

    I had a look at this sluice gate a few months ago.

    Although it clearly hadn’t been used for a while it didn’t look as though there was anything wrong with that someone like Coles Engineering could not sort out quickly and for very little money.

    As WWTTON says, the conundrum here is that with a working gate, the sea is going to get discoloured and there are going to be complaints.

    My view is quite simple. Open the thing up and suffer the consequences. Not doing so will ultimately kill the mangrove swamp.

  7. WHISTLING FROG

    The sluice gate was there and operating before I was born (1936) – I spent many growing-up days in the swamp (me and Max Pontifex and others) – catching mollies for our aquariums…

    Letting out the water was never a problem — if now-a-days it makes people complain — all they have to do is open the gate at 8PM until whatever time — maybe 1AM? And by the time the peeps wake up the drainage will long have dissipated…. they wouldn’t even know the gate had been opened….

  8. No mention was made of the plight of the fish (tarpon) that have been trapped in the swamp for years. They breed in the open ocean and return to the mangroves to spawn. One can easily imagine the degradation they suffer because of existing conditions! There have been recent ‘kills’ taking place!
    Now that the Sanctuary Cafe is open you can go there and remember what an incredible asset the entire place is to this island. There is no shame in being known as a Friend of the Earth! It is increasingly important to be that and to do something to help restore some sensible balance.

  9. Mac

    Graeme Hall is a shining example of the lack of an effective Environmental Policy in this country & yet Dennis Lowe wasn’t fired last time round. A petition was started before, maybe one should be started again in order to preserve ALL of Barbados’ historic sites. maybe with a new PM who isn’t hooked up to CLICO with have a different view, some difference could be made.

  10. 72

    A new PM is in place but who will fund the next election for the DLP? Elections cost money and the parties must get funding from somewhere. Clico as a company might be broke but the bosses still have some money tucked away that could support the DLP for the next election.

  11. Diagenesis

    Hi BFP Family
    I’ve to break my vacation to ask a question. How is it that a foreign-owned company is at the forefront of the ongoing destruction of so much of Barbados (Bajan) heritage?

  12. One who knows

    The concern with the “brown water” is a result of the practices of the last ten years when the gate was rarely opened. The water went swampy and when the stagnant water was released into the ocean it smelled and discoloured the nearby beach areas.

    With the gate in working condition, the gate could be opened regularly and the mangrove swamp would “breathe” as it is supposed to do naturally. This would result in true “brackish” water (mixed sea and fresh) in the mangroves. No stink. No discoloured water near the beach.

    With the gate in proper working condition, the gate openings could be done at night and early morning.

  13. One who knows

    Here is another fact: Every time the gate was manually opened by the public works people, it was done in the day time and not at night. It was almost like they were trying to offend people with the stinky water.

  14. Nostradamus

    Notice in Today’s Nation Newspaper that Worthing beach will be “closed” today November 09, 2010 from 6:00 am to 4:00 pm to allow the drainage unit to carry out work on the sluice gate.

    A check at the location at 6:25 am November 09, 2010 revealed that absolutely no work was being carried out on the sluice gate.

  15. Nostradamus

    A check this morning Nov 10, 2010 @ 6:10 am indicates that absolutely no work was carried out on the sluice gate and in actuality all that occurred was the usual bringing of excavating equipment to remove sand from behind and in front of the gate to allow water to flow into the sea.

    At 6:10 am Nov. 10 2010 the water was still flowing into the sea.

  16. Nostradamus

    This morning November 11, 2010 the sand had been placed in the canal in front of thes sluice gate and the flow of water from the swamp to the sea stopped.

    On each occasion that the sand is cleared from and then replaced in the channel heavy duty equipment has to be brought to the location and in most instances truck loads of sand as well when it needs to be blocked.

    This has been the process for about 5 years. Wouldn’t it have been far cheaper and better water management to have just replaced/repaired the sluice gate?

  17. Diagenesis

    No work on the gate. Why should this come as a surprise to anyone? However, I remain somewhat puzzled since at the end of September 2010 while addressing a special session of the United Nations General Assembly, our esteem Minister of the Environment, Dr Denis Lowe had the temerity to reprimanded the international community for ‘the lack of meaningful support to Small Island Developing States (SIDS)’.

    “Despite the recognition that SIDS are a special case for development considerations, Barbados remains deeply concerned that this is not taken into account when considering our developmental, financial and trade needs,… In this regard, Barbados calls for meaningful progress on the small vulnerable economies’ work programme in the WTO (World Trade Organisation),”… Lowe

    Well, it seems that Mr. Lowe and others need to be reminded that several of the guidelines adopted by the UN for addressing SIDS stems from the Barbados Programme of Action, which emanated from Barbados’ hosting of the 1994 Global Conference on SIDS, and contains specific objectives from the Barbados Physical Development Plan (1988, as amended).

    The issue of the preservation of Graeme Hall (and other ‘green space’ in Barbados) has to be seen as an integral part of Barbados’ future development goals (sect. 7 BPDP).being someone who grew up in the area I have seen the sluice gate opened on several occasions in the past, and yes, there is a mixing of the brackish (brown) water within the nearshore environment but from my experience and to my knowledge this very very temporary situation has never and does not pose any environmental problems. This periodic flushing is absolutely necessary for the health and continued existence of this important habitat. And YES, I believe that the BHA is behind some of the dysfunction associated with GH (tish tish Adrian), but for all interested Bajans, the issue of GH cannot be seen as the Government of Barbados vs. Peter Allard. This has to be seen by Bajans as a part of their heritage that must be preserved. Our island development goals call for it. It is therefore disingenuous on the part of Mr. Lowe or any other Barbados minister to beg for the support of (or chastise) others, while they themselves refuse to support their own goals.

    What I find most perplexing is how so many Bajans (as manifested in the actions of our government ministers, and I state ‘Bajans’, because we are the ones who continue to choose them to represent us) have developed this disconnect between what is known and what is done locally. We spend a lot of time barking about sustainability (e.g. sustainable tourism) yet still we do not see any connection between people choosing to come to our shores and a healthy viable environment. We continue to equate development with paving concrete. It unfortunate that based on the BPDP, other countries have adopted similar goals for their UN’s Program of Action for SIDS and their 2015 The Millennium Development Goals.

  18. All show, no go

    Sometimes I think I’m cRaZy because on one hand we have the Government of Barbados giving speeches at the United Nations about the “environment” and the impact on tourism and the necessity of preserving our natural areas for the future.

    On the other hand I drive down the west coast and all I see is concrete. I can’t get to the beach. We have no real enforcement of dumping laws and the evidence of that is everywhere. Cane fields? All I see is garbage dumps.

    The worst of all is the hypocrisy when it comes to our few remaining ‘nature’ areas. The government declares they will make a national park in the Scotland district and everybody applauds. Ten years later they make the same announcement and everybody applauds. Nothing is done, mind you!

    It is the same with Graeme Hall. It was declared to be a national park but no law was passed that made it so.

    Them monied power class sells everything off that we have and they smile at the United Nations like they doing a good job.

    (Editor’s Note: Two words removed by BFP editor at this location. There is no need to be rude. Please don’t use the same term again.)

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  32. Wily Coyote

    I don’t know wether to LAUGH or be SAD. Barbados as a country is on LIFE SUPPORT, it’s now only a question of when or who will pull the plug to end the suffering.

  33. Mired in the past

    Those who suggest the sluice-gate be opened after nightfall
    and closed again before daybreak
    might incur the wrath of the N.U.P.Workers!

    Bajans DOAN wuk at night, even though it’s much cooler,
    and a lot more work might get done becoz of that.

    When do we fix roads?? Mon-Friday between 9 and 5!
    How else wud the public know we doin a lil sumthin?
    It wud be sheer folly to fix roads starting Fri. nite at about 9
    and work straight thru til daybreak Sarduh morning, you know?
    That wun’t inconvenience the public and their traffic!

  34. Nostradamus

    I now have confirmation that as of Jan 21 absolutely no maintenance was carried on the sluice gate on January 19 or 20. In fact no maintenance or repairs have been carried out on the sluice gate in at least 5 years probably more. The notice says…. “the sluice gates at the beach are opened for routine maintenance”. It is impossible to “open” the sluice gate as it ihas not been operational or “opened” in over 5 years.

    These GIS notices have been appearing in the newspaper every time the Drainage Unit uses a backhoe to remove the sand in front of and behind the sluice gate to allow the water to flow into the sea. The continuous and regular use of this equipment has in fact destroyed one of the sides of the canal.

    The fact is that whenever this notice appears no maintenence is carried out to the sluice gate or canal or anything.

  35. Poitically Tired

    Saw the digger there but no time to stop

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  38. Bajan Leadpipe

    Thanks for the helpful facts Nostradamus. They provide me 20/20 vision.

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  41. CleanBim

    The gate still isn’t fixed and we saw yesterday that the walls on the channel are collapsing where the machinery used to block and unblock the channel with sand has broken the walls.

    what is happening with the international lawsuit about the government’s refusing to fix the sea gate?

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