Graeme Hall National Park – Watershed Management Plan

Barbados Free Press Note…

The following document was received by BFP in the early morning hours of July 4, 2006 from a group called “Friends Of Graeme Hall”. We have had some challenges formating the report for the web, and have also had to leave out some illustrations for a day or so. For clarity on the web, we have bolded certain titles and indented certain sections (such as footnotes), but not a single word has been changed.

This evening after our day jobs, we will work to clean up the presentation and to include the missing illustrations, but for now, here is the unedited report as received…



For the protection and management of water and environmental resources within the 1157-acre Graeme Hall Watershed and the proposed Graeme Hall National Park, and contiguous South Coast freshwater aquifer, coastal littoral and offshore zones. And for the management of Point and Non Point pollution sources with primary and secondary water pollutants being addressed in the project.

(Working Document August, 2005 and updates)

Table of contents

1. -Executive Summary
2. -The need for a Watershed Plan now
3. -The Wetlands – an Internationally Recognized Barbados Asset
4. -On the way to a National Park
5. -What we know
6. -What we need to do
7. -A holding pattern for now
8. -Conclusion: A National Park for Barbados; Pride for future generations

1. Executive Summary

The Graeme Hall Watershed is a unique location in Barbados. Its 1157 acres contain an extraordinarily diverse land-use mix which is anchored by the highly sensitive Graeme Hall Environmental Heritage Site and adjoining environmental buffer lands. Surrounded by an existing mix of residential and commercial development, the Watershed and its RAMSAR-designated Environmental Heritage Site is under pressure from local and foreign business interests. The Barbados Government are seeking to lease out valuable agricultural land to private developers to build environmentally dangerous and high density developments that would create additional pollution sources in and immediately upstream to the sensitive ecology within.

This Graeme Hall Watershed Management Plan has been developed at this time to address the urgent need for a blueprint designed to protect, manage, and control development and the use of water and environmental resources within the Watershed as well as the contiguous South Coast freshwater aquifer, coastal littoral and offshore zones which interface with the Watershed.

The Graeme Hall Watershed is unique and its existence and sanctity is being endangered. It is located within one of the largest of nineteen (19) Water Catchment Areas in Barbados, and contains the last significant mangrove forest and the largest inventory of biodiversity on the island. There are no other watersheds in Barbados with such recognized diversity, where a mangrove wetland, a seagrass bed, and a shallow nearshore hard coral reef can be found in close proximity and this makes this Watershed unique in Barbados and therefore it is necessary to ensure that it be preserved without any further ecological damage.

That is not to say that further development is not possible but only that it must be halted until more complete data and research are compiled. To date the development, although somewhat haphazard, has come close to causing irreversible ecological damage to the Watershed. Existing uses and projected urban zoning and high-density land use proposals do not substantively comply with, or integrate, internationally recognized environmental and water protection standards nor do they even embody recommendations and challenges recognized in the major scientific and tourism studies prepared by or for the Government of Barbados that encompass the Watershed and its natural resources.

These studies, the majority of which were conducted over the last 30 years, have been prepared or underwritten directly for the Government of Barbados by the Ministry of Energy and the Environment, Ministry of Tourism, University of the West Indies, Inter-American Development Bank, The Barbados Water Authority, and many others. As a group they focus on the recognition that further study of this Watershed is required and that in the meantime extreme care must be taken to ensure that until comprehensive data is available it will be unwise to do anything that may potentially imperil the ultimate goal that the Wetlands area that is the recipient of all effluent, waste, and water from the surrounding areas shall be designated as a pristine and protected National Park.

The consensus is that the first steps toward achieving National Park status have already been taken including the RAMSAR treaty signed by Barbados which acknowledges that this is an internationally recognized Environmental Heritage site. Further work needs to be done to achieve full National Park status and in the meantime development within the Watershed must either be halted or, alternatively, subjected to the high standards that must now be imposed to protect the National Park-to-be.

Accordingly all future agricultural use of lands within the Watershed must be subjected to regulations that govern fertilizer use. Low density residential use is to be encouraged but subjected to strict guidelines as to sewage disposal with a prohibition on any small businesses except those on a restricted list designed to ensure that only clean and effluent free types are permitted. No commercial development is to be permitted unless and until the developer can demonstrate (with the burden being on him) that there will be zero negative impact on the Wetlands and upstream lands.

2. The need for a Watershed Plan now

This Paper was conceived after a routine inquiry led to our discovery that Barbados does not have an applied environmental policy or even a comprehensive management plan for the protection of one of its most valuable assets: the environment.

The Barbados Second National Report for the Convention on Biodiversity states that the Ministry of Physical Development and Environment is responsible for planning and the environment. The divisions of the management include Town and Country Development Planning Office, Public Investment Unit, Environmental Unit, Coastal Zone Management Unit, National Conservation Commission, Environmental Special Project Unit, Environmental Engineering Division, Soil Conservation Unit, Fisheries Division and Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development.

However in discussions and reviews with officials and others regarding these Government Agencies it has been discovered that they apply principles of environmental management of resources sporadically, erratically or not at all. This is not a criticism of these departments, but rather evidence of a glaring omission in Barbadian environmental policy development and application. Without an environmental management plan there is no guideline for them to follow, no standards to apply and no overall understanding of what Barbadians want for their country as more and more pollutants and contaminants are injected into its environment and building and development continues to increase.

Friends of Graeme Hall sees the need to fill this gap. It looks to developing a country-wide environmental standards guideline which will focus on the micro-environment offered in each of Barbados’s watersheds. Graeme Hall Watershed has been chosen as the first study simply because unplanned development has been the norm in the past in Graeme Hall, however, matters have not progressed to the point where the area has been spoiled beyond redemption. Also, this Watershed contains one of Barbados’ most valued ecological treasures, the Graeme Hall National Environmental Heritage Site which includes the Graeme Hall Nature Sanctuary, and it is necessary and logical that focus on this national legacy occur so that it will be preserved or future generations.

While some may say that this Plan starts out with a bias we have found no opinions, either in or out of government, that say that the Graeme Hall wetlands and their contiguous sensitive lands should not be maintained in their pristine state. In fact, in speeches and private conversations many, including senior government ministers and including the Prime Minister of Barbados, have underlined the sheer madness that would result from any policy that would not preserve the Site. Once such a unique asset is lost Barbados would never be able to reproduce its unique biodiversity again.

The purpose of this watershed management plan is to present a policy and management guideline to preserve the integrity of all aspects of the Graeme Hall Watershed, utilizing existing scientific studies and policy, and integrating, by addendum, said reports.

Of particular interest are water resource studies and management documents authored by the Ministry of Energy and Environment, Coastal Zone Management Unit and Barbados Water Authority, such as “Integrating Management of Watershed and Coastal Areas in Small Island Developing States of the Caribbean – The Barbados National Report.” Other studies include, but are not restricted to, “Drainage and Groundwater models” (Proctor and Redfern, 1972), “Barbados Tourism Development Programme” (The ARA Consulting Group, Inc. 1996-1998), “Stormwater Drainage Study of Barbados” (Wallace Evans and Partners, 1972), “Barbados Water Resources Study” (vols. 1 and 3, Stanley Associates Engineering, 1978), “Integrated Coastal Zone Management Plan(s),” with corresponding “A Policy Framework for Integrated Coastal Zone Management for Barbados” (Halcrow, 1997-1999), the draft “Policy Framework for Water Resources Development and Management in Barbardos” (Planning and Priorities Committee, 1997), and other government-funded and Inter-American Bank funded studies.

An equally important purpose is to achieve an understanding of data that has not yet been compiled and actions which still need to be taken and this plan is designed to motivate discussion and research that will make it better while highlighting important issues that have as yet been ignored.

With these resources and goals in mind, the plan will address measures to reduce pollutant discharges throughout the upland and lowland Watershed areas associated with commercial, industrial and residential source points. The targeted points include, but are not restricted to, agricultural chemical runoff, limits on soil erosion, and reduction of nutrient loading, turbidity and toxins in water and sediments, and conditions that reduce the levels of dissolved oxygen in the lake at the Graeme Hall Swamp. And, to reduce the severe stresses associated with unplanned and unwise freshwater use, it will also seek to regulate freshwater input into the Graeme Hall Watershed, the Graeme Hall National Environmental Heritage Site and its mangrove wetland.

Ultimately, this plan will suggest introducing management strategies to eliminate illegal sewage dumping, minimize sewage leaks, create more efficient systems for agriculture fertilizing and pesticide use, minimize irrigation water use, and monitor new development wisely with the watershed in mind. While Barbados has a general but unfocused policy regarding pollution, specific laws, regulations, and bylaws for the treatment and disposal of sewage, waste and toxins need to be implemented. Current actions whereby these pollutants are being dumped anywhere in the Watershed need to be introduced and enforced, as well bylaws for wise water use in an area that is freshwater stressed.

This management plan is being prepared by Friends of Graeme Hall. It is hoped that the information, or lack of information, in this report will raise awareness and create opportunities for informed decisions to be made with regards to watershed management. Although in preparation for the publication of this paper the Friends have consulted with experts and gathered information sufficient to draw conclusions it is acknowledged that this Plan can be improved and become more beneficial in future if more information is gathered under the various categories that are pertinent. The Friends call upon all public and private agencies who are in possession of data to share it in a public fashion. As new information becomes available it should be circulated and published immediately so that this Plan can improved and perfected.

This watershed plan has several objectives. This is the first watershed plan for Graeme Hall, and supplements specific studies that have been made in the past regarding its biodiversity and hydrology. This study therefore will give a means to track the progress of future watershed management, engage and provide data and subsequent guidelines, raise awareness in the public and private sectors, and help cause informed decision- making with regards to development and reassessing current practice.

While the Convention on Wetlands (RAMSAR) and Convention on Biodiversity outline priorities for Barbados, they do not create individualized management plans for the island. This paper seeks to take those outlined priorities and give them immediate and long term meaning specifically for Graeme Hall Watershed.

This report is based on the Watershed Management Plan Outline found in the National Planning Procedures Handbook. This working paper and subsequent updates will evaluate the current knowledge available and advise which studies must still be done in order to accurately assess the Graeme Hall Watershed. While gathering information for the preparation of this Plan we began by relying on information published in various government supported publications as well as privately funded studies. Unfortunately it became apparent that some of the data or conclusions could not be reproduced or reconciled so it is clear that everyone has a vested interest in creating a solid fact base so that the Plan discussed here can be improved. We are of the opinion, however, that further research and fact finding will only strengthen the conclusions we have reached.

A map of the Watershed is attached as Appendix A

3-The Graeme Hall Wetlands: an Internationally Recognized Barbados Asset

In February 2006 the Government of Barbados and the administrators of the RAMSAR intenational administration culminated lengthy negotiations that led to the designation of the Graeme Hall Wetlands as an Internationally Recognized Environmental Heritage Site. Barbadians are proud to have been so honoured and the Minister of the Environment made a speech celebrating this momentous occasion at the Graeme Hall Nature Sanctuary.

The Graeme Hall Nature Sanctuary, a privately owned and financed nature preserve that encompasses part of the Wetlands was the creation of a Canadian philanthropist, Peter Allard. His foresight, dedication, and generosity to Barbados, was instrumental in leading the way and creating the impetus to recognize and preserve the uniqueness of one of Barbados’ prized environmental assets. This area, which highlights and celebrates many varieties of Barbados’ flora and fauna in an attractive world class presentation has now become the focus and centerpiece of plans for the rest of the surrounding Wetlands.

Because the Wetlands lie at the lowest elevation of the Watershed they are the recipient and repository of all surface and subterranean effluent that are deposited, leaked, or otherwise dispersed in any part of the Watershed. It is therefore necessary that there be strict control of all activities, development or otherwise, that occur within the Watershed to ensure, to 100% certainty, that the Wetlands do not become contaminated.

4. On the way to a National Park

As stated it is the view of Friends of Graeme Hall that the optimal way to ensure that the Graeme Hall Environmental Heritage Site is preserved for future generations is that it follow its natural destiny, which has already begun, and be designated as a National Park.

A National Park designation attacts national and international support. It allows access to international and local funding and gives status to Barbados that enhances its own goodwill and attractiveness throughout the world. It will also highlight the special type of facility that is already in place in the Nature Sanctuary and be the further basis for the application of environmentally sensitive policies to be applied in the area.

5-What we know

We know that the local residents are proud of their area and are willing to work to maintain it in as pristine a state as possible. They are prepared to be subjected to and abide by guidelines that ensure this. They expect that new development in the area, if any, shall be subjected to and comply with these standards, without exemption.

We know that the government of Barbados has recently publicized the need and its commitment to enact and enforce an Environmental Management Act. It can be expected that the new act will be as forceful and comprehensive as similar legislation in other jurisdictions, in all first world countries. A copy of one such law is attached as Appendix B and it is to be noted that there are extensive regulations that go with it. Barbados will, of course, develop its own regime but in the meantime everyone operating or intending to operate within the Graeme Hall Watershed should be required to comply with the principles and standards already established and proven elsewhere until Barbados sets its own. That is the only way of avoiding problems for the future. (This danger has been highlighted elsewhere as one engineering consultant has opined that since Barbados has no environmental standards or watershed management plans then it cannot wait and should go ahead as if they will never exist. *1)

We know that in 1998 the Government of Barbados recommended that an environmental management study be created which would lead to the creation of detailed policies backed up by necessary legislation. Unfortunately this has not been brought to fruition. *2

Footnotes for *1 and *2

*1 Coastal Engineering has published a preliminary study of a location for its client Caribbean Splash which is considering installing a water park in the Graeme Hall Watershed on land leased from the government. It states that it will not consider what might be in a watershed management plan since none exists. This type of thinking simply highlights the need for a responsible ‘go slow’ philosophy for Graeme Hall Watershed since the stakes are so high. Once lost or contaminated with toxic waste the Watershed will never be the same again.

*2 Ref. ARA Consulting Group Inc. 1998. Barbados Tourism Development Programme. Sub- programme C. Graeme Hall Swamp. Report to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Tourism and International Transport, Barbados. This outlines a proposed management strategy. They propose the Government of Barbados to vest the management responsibility for GHS to the Ministry of Tourism with the authority to enter into a joint agreement with the Graeme Hall Nature Sanctuary Inc. to manage GHS as a contiguous Management Unit. There was a commitment to
– Protection of some springs at the east unit from swamp’s saline water contamination.
– The cur channel must be cleaned and their natural flow restored to alleviate potential stagnation problems.
– To extend the discharge channel to near normal high tide levels of the beach to minimize the amount of sand clearing and allow more regular discharges from the swamp.

– To upgrade the sluice gate with a remote controlled electronic mechanism to facilitate its operation.
– To control the water levels in the swamp by a series of flashcard risers installed in the discharge channel.
– Development of a monitoring programs that determines sources of excess nutrients and coliform in the swamp, especially at the west unit where there is an increased bird population at the new ponds (bird droppings can affect the water quality).

We know that citizens of Barbados are committed to seeing their homeland cleaned up and kept that way. Some excellent examples of recent initiatives by private citizens are to be found in Appendix C and D to this plan.

We know that there are many studies focusing on flora and fauna in the Graeme Hall Watershed and the need to protect them and how to do this. *3 As discussed below there is more to know as we refine this plan and progress toward a National Park and environmentally sound Watershed that will ensure the longevity of the Nature Sanctuary and animals, fish, birds, and plants that are found throughout the wetlands.

More detailed an scientific facts can be found in Appendix E

6. -What we need to do

There is a need for a concerted effort by all concerned to carry on with this plan. The government will now need to join with the public and especially the residents and businesses already located in Graeme Hall and study the future needs of the watershed. All concerned must ‘place a hold’ on any further development and in the interim fill in the gaps in knowledge that it needs to be able to enact and enforce sound environmental laws.

Landowners, businesses, agencies, companies, schools and organizations in the Graeme Hall Watershed all hold interests in the area. They must therefore develop a unified partnership where a plan is adopted by the entire area. This is an important part of developing a management plan that will work. Everyone in the watershed holds a stake in its productivity, integrity and, most importantly, its future. By working as a group, peer pressure and clear common goals work positively to ensure that everyone contributes to a healthier watershed. A healthier watershed means more resources for everyone, and a better future for later generations of all who reside in the area and, by extension, all Barbadians.

The public must join in by encouraging its elected representatives and the various non government organizations (NGO’s) to encourage the public to become more aware of and proactive about the environment. This will include encouraging this topic to be discussed and taught in schools and universities and also propagated through ads, speeches, and presentations.

We need more studies regarding matters listed in Appendix E. We expect that the government and their consultants will have done some of these and they will be released to us. Where absent studies must now be completed before proceeding further.

What we do not need is to allow anything to be done in the Graeme Hall Watershed until all interested parties are absolutely certain that no further environmental damage will be caused. There has already been an instance of this and it must not be repeated. *4

Footnotes for *3 and *4

*3 These are contained in the bibliography in Appendix E and available on request from Graeme Hall Nature Sanctuary or Friends of Graeme Hall. Appendix E summarizes some of the studies as a further reference point.

*4 In 2004 a public sewage treatment plant malfunctioned and thousands of gallons of untreated sewage were dumped into Graeme Hall Watershedand ended up in the Wetlands. This occurred notwithstanding a plan that such an occurrence would require the sewage to be dumped into the ocean where its deleterious effects would be substantially less than in the Wetlands. The government does not yet have standards or testing equipment that can tell how serious the ecological damage is or how it will effect humans or wildlife in the future.

7-A holding pattern for now

The consensus of those consulted is that further development of the Graeme Hall Watershed Area should be postponed until this plan or a more comprehensive one is put in place after open and public consultation with all interested parties. If this does not occur then the fate of the watershed will fall victim to random development which will surely lead to improper or inconsistent use of the lands, planning nightmares, and generally an environment which will please no one while almost certainly harming the Graeme Hall Swamp, a unique and special Barbadian place which has been recognized internationally as a significant wetland and has been designated as a Ramsar site.

Therefore, the first step in the process following publication of this paper must be the holding of public interest meetings with all of those interested in the watershed area so there can be a full and frank discussion. Only in this way can an honest and open review of all viewpoints and facts be achieved so we can come to discuss a more refined general plan for Graeme Hall Watershed management. The concerns of the government and the public, as well as feasible solutions to threats to the watershed productivity, can be expressed and an outline formulated taking into account an individualized management plan for Graeme Hall Watershed and its inhabitants.

It is clear from utterances by the government of Barbados about its plans to study and implement environmental standards and the fact that more information is required that further development cannot be allowed at this time. It is expected that new legislation and regulations will be enacted in 2007 that will set the benchmarks for future development throughout Barbados and notably in the Graeme Hall Watershed. It is therefore clear that a holding pattern must be maintained until the legislation has been passed and at that point this plan can be updated. In the interim future drafts of this plan will benefit from more research and obtaining of more information about the surface and subterranean characteristics and that will enhance the next draft of the plan going forward.

8 -Conclusion: A National Park for Barbados; Pride for future generations

This Graeme Hall Watershed Management Plan recommends implementation of a comprehensive surface and subterranean pollution monitoring programme within the Graeme Hall Watershed, and that this monitoring programme be a model for other watersheds in Barbados.

The Plan also recommends a public education campaign to inform the public about the relationship between pollution and water quality, and improved quality of life.

To prevent permanent damage to the existing freshwater and saltwater aquifers, and to prevent further degradation of the Graeme Hall Environmental Heritage Site and its biodiversity, the Plan recommends that no further urban development occur adjacent to the Site. This conclusion can be reexamined only when further data is generated and when the proposed Environmental Management Act and regulations have become law.

The Plan further recommends that environmental management of the Watershed will include permanent National Park protection for the Graeme Hall Environmental Heritage Site, inclusive of the 82 acre RAMSAR designation, inclusive of the 18-acre buffer agricultural areas defined in the 1996-1998 ARA Report, and inclusive of the approximately 17 acres lying between the Ministry of Agriculture offices and the ABC Highway.

Declaration of the the new 117- acre Graeme Hall National Park would help provide international logistical and financial opportunities to implement a drainage management system to maintain Park wetlands, an emergency holding facility for raw sewage from the South Coast Sewage Plant to prevent uncontrolled discharges into the wetland, construction/renovation of integrated agricultural educational facilities for the Ministry of Agriculture, construction of recreational facilities such as bicycle and walking trails, observation points, and corresponding environmental educational and interpretive facilities.

This plan is essentially about seeing Barbadians recognize and cherish their natural heritage. It is clear that the Graeme Hall Watershed will be placed in peril if any development is allowed until and unless all aspects of this plan have been put in place. Barbados has reached a status and place in history where it recognizes and should be prepared to act now to ensure, indeed guarantee, that it does the right thing to ensure that it can continue to be proud of the natural beauty and clean environment that it has inherited. This legacy must be preserved as a matter not only of National Pride but an endowment to our future generations.

Appendix A

Map of Graeme Hall Watershed

Appendix B

Sample one of many New Jersey Environmental Statutes (see

Appendix C

(Reproduced as a publication intended to be freely circulated and which is endorsed by Friends of Graeme Hall if not by all Barbadians who take pride in their country)

Appendix D

Enforcing Environmental Laws In Barbados – Forget The Police, We Need Specialists

(Reproduced from Barbados Free Press with permission and encouragement that it be adopted and implemented immediately by the government of Barbados)

Appendix E

(Bibliography and Studies Still Needed)

What we know

Surface Water

The National Physical Development Plan outlines the current Environmental Site roughly by the boundaries of the 100-year flood plain located at the lowest elevation within the Graeme Hall Watershed. This area is comprised primarily of mangrove woodlands, wetlands and a 10 acre brackish lake which is the largest inland lake in Barbados. This main brackish lake is a shallow and roughly rectangular (150 x 120 m) surrounded by a dense fringe of red (Rhizophora mangle) and white (Avicennia racemosa) mangroves. A detailed survey shows that the shores of the lake drop rapidly to a depth of 1 m or more, except along the northeastern shore which remains very shallow (<0.5 m) due to the presence of a deep layer of soft mud. The average depth of the lake is 1.32 m and the maximum depth is 2.71 m.

Most surface water in the Graeme Hall Watershed runs off into the lake and eventually the coastal waters at the St. Lawrence Lagoon.

The lagoon covers an area of approximately 18 hectares, is protected from high energy waves to seaward by an old reef flat and rubble bank (50-150 m wide), and becomes exposed at spring low tides. Extensive areas of sediment accumulation occur on the southwestern shelf of Barbados, and the lagoon is bounded on the landward side by an actively accreting, fine, coral sand beach (now 60 m wide). The lagoon is shallow (1-3 m deep at low tide); it has a sand substrate and seagrass beds that are occasionally exposed at spring low tides. The seagrasses are primarily turtle grass (Thalassia testudinum) and manatee grass (Syringodium filiforme), although some sparse, monospecific beds of shoal grass (Halodule beaudettei) occur nearshore in the vicinity of the mangrove swamp drainage canal. Macroalgae, Bryothamnion spp., Caulerpa spp. and Padina spp., are also present in the area directly adjacent to the swamp outfall. The seagrass beds act as adult foraging and/or nursery habitat for sand dollars (Mellita sexiesperforata), a commercially important sea urchin (Tripneustes ventricosus), the endangered green turtle (Chelonia mydas), and several estuarine and reef-associated fishes such as mullet (Mugil spp.), wrasse (Halichoeres spp.), razorfish (Xyrichtys spp.), and grunts (Haemulon spp.). The CARICOMP monitoring sites are located in the main area of mixed seagrass towards the eastern end of the lagoon. The lagoon is currently used as a mooring basin for small fishing boats and for recreational swimming and windsurfing.

Ground Water

Ground water is found in a freshwater lens that sits above and depressed the more dense saltwater below. It is replenished by precipitation and filters down through the coral of which the island is partially made. It is in contact with surface water bodies such as the lake at Graeme Hall, and there is water movement to balance pressure created by excess or depletion of water levels.

Fish and Wildlife

In terms of species diversity per unit area, and degree of threat, the roost areas within the Graeme Hall Watershed for migratory and native waterbirds is one of only three primary roost areas in Barbados within the Eastern Caribbean Flyway. The Flyway is the main migratory bird corridor for birds flying from the Arctic to South America and back each year.

At least 44 bird species have been recorded at within the Graeme Hall Watershed and the Graeme Hall Environmental Heritage Site which is home to the widest diversity of resident and migratory birds in the island. Significant winter resident migrant birds include Osprey, Great Blue Heron, Little Blue Heron, Tricolor Heron, Black-crowned Night Heron, Yellow-crowned Night Heron, Great White Egret, Sora Rail, Belted Kingfisher, Parula Warbler and Northern Waterthrush.

Migratory bird species passing down Eastern Caribbean Flyway and using the Sanctuary for staging point include Spotted Sandpiper, Solitary Sandpiper, Upland Sandpiper, Pectoral Sandpiper, Semipalmated Plover, American Golden Plover, Black-bellied Plover, Hudsonian Godwit, Whimbrel, White-tailed Curlew, Lesser Yellowlegs, Greater Yellowlegs, Short-billed Dowitcher, Stilt Sandpiper, Sandy Plover, Sandling, Ruff, Grey Heron, Pied-billed Grebe, Green-winged Teal, Blue-winged Teal, American Wigeon, Northern Pintail, Northern Shoveler, Peregrine Falcon, and Merlin.

Additional resident species include important local breeding populations of Green-backed Heron, Masked Duck, Common Moorhen, Caribbean Coot, Scaley-naped Pigeon, Antillean crested Hummingbird, Emerald-throated Hummingbird, Grey Kingbird, Yellow Warbler, Lesser Antilles Elaenia, Black-whiskered Vireo, Black-faced Grassquit, Bananaquit and Lesser Antilles grackle.

Other species include Green Monkey, Mongoose, Fisherman Bat, Bug Bat, several herptile species, a wide diversity of invertebrate life and aquatic life that includes several marine fish species such as Tarpon, Snook and White Mullet. Local biologists consider the main fish species of interest at the Swamp to be the marine species that have become isolated from the sea and have now become breeding resident in the lake.

Several endangered turtle species make use of Barbados beaches for reproduction. Over 20 species of fresh and brackish water fish reside in the swamp, including the unique killifish (Rivulus marmoratus), which is the only vertebrate in the world to fertilize its own eggs.

Habitat/Special Ecosystems

As discussed earlier, the most important ecosystem in the Graeme Hall Watershed is the Graeme Hall Swamp, including the wetlands and lake. Red mangroves dominate much of the lake shoreline, although white mangroves dominate the northeastern shore and are also found in isolated clusters along the southern boundary of the swamp. A freshwater marsh is located in the eastern quadrant of the swamp, which contains a large stand of mature white mangroves and a network of man-made drainage canals with lotus and water lilies, water lettuce, and filamentous green algae. The banks of the canals support a dense growth of sedges and strips of grassland. The CARICOMP mangrove monitoring site is located in the largest contiguous stand of accessible red mangrove trees, along the eastern shore of the lake.

Part of the National Environmental Heritage Site defined by the National Physical Development Plan is within the Graeme Hall Nature Sanctuary (GHNS) and protected under the Convention on Wetlands (RAMSAR) and Convention on Biological Diversity treaties, however pollutants from the Watershed continue to adversely affect these sensitive lands.

The remaining portion of the wetland is also highly polluted. It is also an important ecosystem for developing organisms such as young fish as it is well protected from predators due to the density of the forest.

The mangrove wetland acts as a filter for water and protects the coastline from storms and erosion. It is a sensitive ecosystem, being ranked as a 14 our of a scale from 1-15 where 15 is the most sensitive ecosystem. It is a highly productive ecosystem with far reaching effects on human and environmental concerns.

Culture and History

The Graeme Hall Watershed has been highly impacted by anthropogenic activities during the last 150 years. A coastal roadway was first built on the sand bar separating the mangrove swamp from the sea in the early 1700s, and the bridge over the main exit channel, which remains today, was built in 1871. Originally, during this period, the economic needs of the Graeme Hall sugar plantation, on whose lands the swamp lay, further reduced its size and eventually led to the creation of a system of canals on the eastern side of the swamp, known locally as ‘vales’. Sugar cane was grown here, as were grasses, which were used to provide forage for mules and oxen used on the plantation.

Early in the nineteenth century, newspapers (circa 1810) were advertising allotments of land within the Graeme Hall Watershed that were rented for the shooting of migrating birds between the months of July to December. This was later formalized in the latter half of the last century with the creation of gun clubs set up for the specific purpose of bird shooting. The largest club was Graeme Hall, located within the present boundaries of the Graeme Hall Nature Sanctuary, which was run by Eric Manning and others, though at varying times there were a number of other shooting swamps in the environs of Graeme Hall, such as ‘Bunyans’, ‘Worthing View’, ‘Cavaliers’, ‘Vietnam’, ‘Amity Hall’ and ‘Neva’. It was the practice of these shooting swamps to clear-cut the mangroves so that migrating birds would have a clear view of the water trays and be enticed to fly down. As part of the Graeme Hall Estate, the freshwater marsh was extensively altered by canaled water flow into a series of freshwater trays (dykes) to attract water birds for shooting, and high grass banks from which mule fodder was cut and sold. Peat and mangrove poles were also known to have been cut and sold. Sometime later, a second hunting club was established in the western quadrant, and a number of shallow ponds were cleared and maintained to attract water birds, plus there was an annual cutting of the surrounding mangrove trees. A sluice gate was also installed in the narrow exit channel between the swamp and the sea in the 1930s and was opened only at low tide to control the water level in the shooting pools. Tilapia was introduced to the main lake around this time, and commercial seine harvesting took place. In 1972, the main lake was dredged and the sludge was used to fill in the western ponds and convert the land to pasture. The extensive annual mangrove cutting in the swamp ceased in the 1970s, and shooting in the swamp has been banned since 1981.

Point sources

One direct source of detrimental pollution to the Graeme Hall swamp as well as the entire watershed is the emergency dumping of raw sewage. The South Coast Sewerage Project has in the past dumped raw sewage into the mangrove wetlands in an emergency. Points associated with this problem are:

– As a result of a system failure in July 2005, Barbados Water Authority (BWA) management authorized a major dump of raw sewage into the Graeme Hall Swamp Environmental Heritage Site. Graeme Hall Nature Sanctuary officials have been unable to determine the precise volume of the emergency discharge, however the effluent volume was enough to significantly contaminate all waterbodies within the 35-acre Sanctuary, as well as the Sanctuary’s main spring.

– The deliberate operation to deviate from standard emergency sewage dump procedures bypassed the Sewage Treatment Plant’s designed emergency outfall that runs from the treatment plant to the Swamp bisecting canal. The bisecting canal drains the eastern and western portions of the Swamp, and discharges to the sea at Worthing Beach.

– The Emergency Discharge Structure was designed and built as part of the South Coast Sewerage Project (SCSP), and was financed in large part by the Inter-American Development Bank (IADB).

– The SCSP emergency outfall had been specifically designed to enable emergency discharges to the sea, rather than the Heritage Site, since the effects of sewage dumping in the Heritage Site are consisdered to be long-term and cumulatively detrimental to the environment, as there is little natural flushing or cleansing action within the Heritage Site ecosystem.

– The design decision to provide an Emergency Discharge Structure to the sea was based on the knowledge that the reef and associated areas are more likely to recover from an emergency discharge event. In fact, studies financed by the Inter-American Development Bank (IADB) and the Government of Barbados, and conducted by consultants and the University of the West Indies were the basis for the subsequent design of the sewage treatment plant, the Needham Point Outfall, and the Emergency Discharge Structure in Worthing.

– IADB financing of the SCSP was, and is, contingent on appropriate operation of the sewage treatment system in accordance with local and multi-lateral agreements such as the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity (Barbados signed this Convention in 1993), and in accordance with measurable environmental standards such as the numeric limits contained in “The Pollution Prevention and Abatement Handbook, Part III.”

– IADB-financed operations must comply with in-country environmental laws, regulations, standards and environmental assessment procedures.

– Where national environmental regulations, standards or environmental assessment procedures differ significantly from the generally accepted international equivalent, the more stringent option generally applies, unless otherwise approved by the IADB.

– The IADB has acknowledged the Heritage Site as a critical conservation area, as defined by IADB policy guidelines.

– The Bank will not support operations and activities that will significantly convert or degrade critical cultural sites and/or critical conservation areas. The current operational decision to re-direct emergency raw sewage into the Heritage Site directly endangers and in conflict with the current RAMSAR Convention on Wetlands Application.

– IADB loan documents specify Terms of Reference (TOR) for the environmental assessment or due diligence associated with SCSP design, construction and operations. The TOR refer to applicable International Treaty requirements to which a borrower is subject, a requirement for the IADB to analyze any potential violation of such Treaties, and the requirements of the IADB and the borrower to initiate analysis and mitigation such violations.

– The IADB specifies that it is available to finance mitigation solutions for environmental violations and will support borrowing member countries in meeting their obligations under ratified international environmental treaties and agreements.

The government of Barbados has acknowledged the importance of wetlands by signing the Ramsar treaty. Ramsar recognizes the importance of wetlands worldwide and asks that governments responsibly manage them. By signing this treaty, it is the responsibility of the Barbados government to formulate and enforce a watershed plan that will best preserve the Graeme Hall Swamp.

The Convention on Biodiversity gives the following objectives:

– Develop a more informed basis for decision making and policy making formulation on the management of biodiversity in Barbados
– Develop a more comprehensive information database for the management and utilization of biodiversity
– Promote the full appreciation of biodiversity as a national resource

More information needed

Land use within the Graeme Hall Watershed:

Land cover types within the Graeme Hall Watershed: cropland, grass, forest, urban, transportation, erodability, slope and length of slope, common management factors and cropping rotation

Water body use, classifications, standards (streams, lakes, ground water, wetlands)

Fish and wildlife resources

Economic base (primary income sources)

Population demographics (density, distribution)

Farm demographics: # of farms in area, #low income minority farms, type of farms, number of farms by type, average size of farm op by type

Cultural and other resources

Nonpoint sources

– Non point sources include illegal sewage and waste dumping, agricultural runoff, pesticide runoff, traffic runoff and construction runoff.

– Identify accepted physical/chemical pollutants (actual data if known, or estimates: conventional pollutants, ag pesticides, toxic substances)

– Find actual names of substances used, are there accepted levels? Look in the States for their levels

– Related known problems or impediments (degraded habitat, erosion, wetland and fisheries, hydrological modifications, endangered species, history of ag pesticide use, local concerns to human health, wildlife, community development, ag economics)

– Related known problems or impediments (degraded habitat, erosion, wetland and fisheries, hydrological modifications, endangered species, history of ag pesticide use, local concerns to human health, wildlife, community development, ag economics)

– Water quality testing was done by the University of the West Indies and others on waterbodies in within the Graeme Hall Environmental Heritage Site. These tests showed the presence of pollutants, including abnormally high levels of faecal coloforms from human sewage from surrounding communities and the South Coast Sewerage Treatment Plant, high nitrogen from fertilizer and other runoff, corresponding low oxygen concentrations, high turbidity, and concentrations of carbon dioxide and hydrogen sulfide.

– Another source of pollution is the Shell Oil jet fuel leak, which is leaking into the groundwater. This will inevitably reach the wetland since it is the lowest area in the watershed, adding toxic hydrocarbons to the list of pollutants. Tests need to be done on underground water supplies and at GHNS to see the extent of the impact of the leak.

– Tests should also be done on sediment cores in the lake at GHNS to see what toxins and heavy metals it contains, in case it should be dredged to avoid years of recycling toxins in the ecosystem.

– The toxins and pollutants that reach the lake at Graeme Hall are a threat to humans and biodiversity. Many organisms are adversely affected, whether they emigrate, become extinct, or are in poor health. This has immediate effects on humans if they are consuming any of these organisms, such as fish. Other effects are poor water quality, and toxins being spread over foods that are consumed through irrigation water.

Management analyses

In the Second National Report for the Convention on Biodiversity, the government divisions responsible for the environment were identified (as listed in section 3.9). This report expresses the problems that impede these divisions from carrying out their responsibilities. These include inadequate staffing levels, a deficiency in appropriate training, and limited finances.

A list of further practices is suggested for the purpose of the management of Graeme Hall Watershed:

– Laws put in place and enforced regarding illegal waste dumping of any kind by individuals or corporations
– Laws put in place and enforced to hold large companies responsible for their wastes, and strictly enforcing waste constituents and amounts laying fines where necessary
– Laws regarding sewage leaks from faulty septic tanks or pipes forcing those responsible to immediately repair the problem, or they will be fined
– Large penalties for other waste types leaking into the soil or water, from personal or large scale facilities
– Governmental leadership in setting examples with government run projects, like the South Coast Sewerage Project.
– Limited development to minimize water run off and increase infiltration of rain water into the ground
– More efficient agricultural fertilizer and pesticide application, minimizing chemical runoff into the water system. In the US, they have developed methods of calculating the exact amounts needed by satellite mapping in order to eliminate excess chemicals. This will save money as well as minimize impacts on the watershed
– Education as to efficient water use by inhabitants
– Increased wetland cover as wetlands are useful in helping to filter water

In addition to these actions, feedback mechanisms must be put into place:
– Water must be analyzed at specific locations to monitor progress and create a history for later analysis. This will help to see whether or not the above suggestions are improving the water quality, and by how much. This information can then be used to improve management practices.
– Species should be identified and counted regularly to determine whether or not they are being affected positively or negatively by management practices.
– Sensitive, or indicator species should be identified to help monitor the state of the watershed
– Species health should be analyzed, for example many fish exhibit physical defects when exposed to high levels of toxins. Species displaying adverse health effects should be quantified so that success of the management plan can be gauged

And finally, all of the above management practices rest on the ability of all of the groups in the watershed to interact, communicate and participate in improving the quality of the area. Local partnerships, as mentioned above, are a key part of successful watershed management. Meetings to voice concerns or ideas, volunteers in watershed management activities, communication between citizens and government, participation of schools in education programs and sponsorship by local businesses are all examples of how the community can become involved in an integrated watershed management program. This will bring the community closer together by creating pride in their watershed area and their achievements.

We need a draft water resources management plan

State project goals and objectives (derived from #1.3)

To conduct comprehensive studies on water quality, species counts, species health

– Describe planned improvements in the watershed (derived from 6.0)
– Describe any current or proposed monitoring and/or evaluateion efforts within the project and the likely changes in water quality that can be expected from the monitoring and/or evaluation efforts
– Establish project milestones established by local project participants
– Review the draft flan with local stakeholders and make any modifications to gain acceptance from the community that implementation of planned practices will adequately address the water resource problem

Estimate plan implementation budget and identify sources of funding

Describe known/estimated costs to implement the plan as well as known and/or potential funding sources. Develop an annual budget over a 5 year time period. Utilize graphics or tabular data when possible


References and supporting technical documentation

1. a) Flora:

Hull, M.: The Vegetation of the Graeme Hall Swamp Area. 13pp.

Rogers, G., Carrington, S.: Plant Communities at the Graeme Hall Swamp. 5pp

Bacon R., P., Alleng, G.: Feasibility Studies in Coastal Conservation: Shoreline Plants Communities. Government of Barbados, Ministry of Labour, Consumer Affairs and the Environmental Coastal Conservation Project Unit. Aug. 1994. pp 37-39.

Simms, A.: Nutrient Cycling, Litter Fall and Decomposition Rates in the Graeme Hall Swamp, Barbados. Faculty of Sciences and Technology, University of the West Indies, Cave Hill Campus. Barbados, W. I. 2000. 152 pp.

b) Fauna, Ecology and Limnology:

Luke, K., Fields, A.: Fish and Fresh Water Molluscs of Barbados. Research Project Report. Department of Biology, University of the West Indies, Cave Hill Campus

Ramsey, D. 1988: Foraging and Breeding Behaviour of the Cattle Egret in Barbados. Mphil Theses. Biology Department, Faculty of Natural Sciences. University of the West Indies.

Prescod S.: Aspects of Trafficing of Organisms Between the Graeme Hall Swamp and the Sea. 574.526325-72981-PM. 29pp.

Cattaneo, A., Kramer, D. L., Kramer, V., Peters, R. H.: A Limnological and Ichthyological Reconnaissance of Graeme Hall Swamp, Barbados. Department of Biology, McGill University. Montreal, Canada. May 1988. 47 pp.

Mahon, R.: Overnight Die-Off of Fish in Graeme Hall Swamp. September 1997. 1pp.

c) Geology and Hydrology:

Myles, P. J. (Drainage Engineer): Drainage Aspects of the Graeme Hall Swamp and its Environs. Ministry of Transport and Works. 3pp.

Sinn, A.: Geological Investigations of the Ground Water Resources of Barbados W. I. British Union Oil Company Limited. March 1946. pp 51-53, 103-106 and 113.

Alan Armstrong Associates Ltd.: Flood Level Contour Plan. Graeme Hall Bird Sanctuary. March 2000.

This is a series of five contour maps showing the areas that would be flooded with rains of 5, 10, 20, 50 and 100 years return storm.

d) Issues, Development and Management:

Graeme Hall Redevelopment 26pp:

Smith Warner Int. for the Barbados Marine Trust: Summary Report on the Sandy Beach/Graeme Hall Swamp Rehabilitation Study. June 18th, 2003. 25pp.

ARA Consulting Group Inc. 1998. Barbados Tourism Development Programme. Sub- programme C. Graeme Hall Swamp. Report to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Tourism and International Transport, Barbados.

Ingrid Sylvester (TCP) July 18, 2001: Graeme Hall Bird Sanctuary Environmental Assessment Programme (Iterim). *

Graeme Hall Bird Sanctuary: Environmental Management Plan. (CZMU Dec. 24 1998).*

CCA Nov 1985:Graeme Hall Sanctuary Management Study. Part I: Synthesis of Resources and Potentials. 31 pp.*

CCA Aug. 1985:Graeme Hall Sanctuary Management Study. Part II: Management and Development Plan. 15 pp.*

Hull, M.: The Vegetation of the Graeme Hall Swamp Area. 13pp.

Rogers, G., Carrington, S.: Plant Communities at the Graeme Hall Swamp. 5pp

Bacon R., P., Alleng, G.: Feasibility Studies in Coastal Conservation: Shoreline Plants Communities. Government of Barbados, Ministry of Labour, Consumer Affairs and the Environmental Coastal Conservation Project Unit. Aug. 1994. pp 37-39.

Simms, A.: Nutrient Cycling, Litter Fall and Decomposition Rates in the Graeme Hall Swamp, Barbados. Faculty of Sciences and Technology, University of the West Indies, Cave Hill Campus. Barbados, W. I. 2000. 152 pp.

Luke, K., Fields, A.: Fish and Fresh Water Molluscs of Barbados. Research Project Report. Department of Biology, University of the West Indies, Cave Hill Campus, Barbados W. I. 1997-98. 49pp.

Ramsey, D. 1988: Foraging and Breeding Behaviour of the Cattle Egret in Barbados. Biology Department, Faculty of Natural Sciences. University of the West Indies (Mphil Theses).

Prescod S.: Aspects of Trafficing of Organisms Between the Graeme Hall Swamp and the Sea. 574.526325-72981-PM. 29pp.

Parker, C.: Ecological Aspects of the Graeme Hall Swamp -Water Analysis of the Drainage Canal. BL 36A Marine Biology, University of the West Indies. May 1986. 14pp.

Cattaneo, A., Kramer, D. L., Kramer, V., Peters, R. H.: A Limnological and Ichthyological Reconnaissance of Graeme Hall Swamp, Barbados. Department of Biology, McGill University. Montreal, Canada. May 1988. 47 pp.

Mahon, R.: Overnight Die-Off of Fish in Graeme Hall Swamp. September 1997.

Sisnett, V. O.: Survey of Chemical Pollutants in Graeme Hall Swamp and Lake. AN ES 500 Project Report Presented to CERMES, University of the West Indies. August 1991.

BELLAIRS RESEARCH INSTITUTE, 1998. Impacts of the south coast sewerage system outfall on adjacent benthic marine communities. Status of the marine communities immediately after outfall construction. Prepared for the Government of Barbados, 44 pp, 1 appendix.

BELLAIRS RESEARCH INSTITUTE, 1997. Impact of the south coast sewerage system outfall on adjacent marine benthic communities. Status of the marine communities one year before outfall construction. Prepared for the Government of Barbados, 25 pp.

BELLAIRS RESEARCH INSTITUTE, 1997. Impact of the south coast sewerage system outfall on the adjacent marine communities. Status of the communities immediately before outfall construction. Prepared for the Government of Barbados, 36 pp.

BELLAIRS RESEARCH INSTITUTE, 1996. Bacteriological contamination levels at bathing beaches on the west coast of Barbados. Prepared for Stanley International and the Government of Barbados, 57 pp.

HUNTE, W. and ALLARD, P. 1994. Temporal changes in coral reef communities on the west and south coasts of Barbados: 1982-1992. Technical report for the Government of Barbados and the Inter-American Development Bank, Washington, 67 pp.

HUNTE, W., DAVIES, P.S., ALLARD, P., MANN, G., BATESON, R. and PARKER, C. 1993. Impacts of sewage effluents on marine organisms. For AGRODEV Canada, Stanley International, and the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA), 93 pp.

7 responses to “Graeme Hall National Park – Watershed Management Plan

  1. Pingback: Barbados Free Press » Blog Archive » Barbados Group Calls For Creation of Graeme Hall National Park - Issues Watershed Management Plan - Stunning Revelations

  2. At the meeting of Concerned Residents prior to the Town Hall meeting at Christchurch parich hall, a member of the audience who appeared to be directly concerned with the Nature Sanctuary observed that, as Barbados was a signatory to RAMSAR, it could not back out of its commitment to protect the Graeme Hall watershed. In response a speaker on the podium, possibly Mr Paul, pointed out that although Barbados had signed its intention to be committed to RAMSAR, this had never been followed up with implementing legislation. This mean that it was not technically committed to the pact. In other words, the government of Barbados was not under any obligation to protect the Graeme Hall Nature Sanctuary and its surrounding ecosystem. This hypocrisy seems to have been forgotten among all the other hot issues raised about Caribbean Splash Inc. It is time it was revived to see whether Barbados will honour its declared intention or back out.

  3. Crusty

    As stated in:

    [begin quote]

    Vol. 17 No. 20
    Thursday, 10 November 2005



    Noting that few Caribbean countries are currently Parties to the Ramsar Convention, BARBADOS expressed its intention to become a Contracting Party in the near future.

    [end quote]

    A list of current parties to Ramsar is shown at:

    Barbados is NOT on the list.

    The following URL is from the Nation article on 18 December 2005
    wherein Minister of the Environment, Elizabeth Thompson, indicated
    the governments intentions as of that moment in time.

    This URL for the Coastal Zone Management Unit indicates the same:

    Does anyone have more current information?

  4. of interest

    Another National disgrace you have small holdings who try to get planning approval for change of use from Agricuktural to other Land Uses without any success as they are constantly told of non compatable Land Use yet here it is even before we have a planning application the National Physical Development Plan was Amended to change this Land Use to change this land use from Agriculture an area which conatins prime agricultural land where all kinds of testing are done to develop various species but i guess as usual some person got something and thats it is that what we have come to? its sadddddddd

  5. Is what I read in the Executive Summary really true? “The Barbados Government are SEEKING TO LEASE OUT valuable agricultural land to private developers to build environmentally dangerous and high density developments that would create additional pollution sources…”

    My understanding was that Kerins and cronies had taken the initiative to establish Caribbean Splash and that Government were SERIOUSLY CONSIDERING their application, having indicated that lands at Graeme Hall would be available on lease at, presumably, “peppercorn” rates.

    I find it hard to believe Government was seeking to lease out these priceless lands to any commercial venture. What is even harder to understand is why the PM has not yet announced that the water park application has been denied.

  6. Lani Edghill

    so glad that im not the only one that cares about this stuff. Who ever published this plan and did the relevant reseach and all has done a fantastic job. I applaud you for this great plan!

    I myself have found that there are many people who are worried about the environmental health and protection of our environmentally sensative lands. I wrote a memo to the Chief Town Planner on the preservation of the Chancery Lane wetland that had a huge development proposal hanging over its head for some time. Here is what I had to say. Please do not reproduce without my permission. thanks

    Memo – 01/02/08
    To: Mr. Mark Cummins, Chief Town Planner, Barbados
    CC: Dr. Lorna Inniss, Coastal Zone Management Unit
    From: Lani Edghill, Masters Candidate of Urban and Regional Planning, Portland State University
    Re: Chancery Lane Swamp Development Proposal and Wetland Preservation

    All over the world governments and planners are becoming more aware of how the health of natural ecosystems affects human existence and how our decisions alter natural environments. The destruction of natural ecosystems is currently occurring at an unprecedented rate, consequently professionals are taking steps to reduce impacts such as implementing sustainable development policies and practices. As a result, the Government of Barbados and the Town and Country Planning Office are promoting sustainable development on the island through the creation of the Physical Development Plan (Government of Barbados, 2003). The definition of sustainable development according to the Physical Development Plan, (PDP) “allows for change which meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.”
    The concepts and definitions of sustainable development are wide ranging and have been the topic of much controversy since the term became popular in the planning and development fields. The basic definition of the word “sustain” according to Miriam-Webster Dictionary is “of, relating to, or being a method of harvesting or using a resource so that the resource is not depleted or permanently damaged.” A better all encompassing definition of sustainable development is “sustainable development is development that improves the long term health of human and ecological systems.” (Wheeler, 2004). Sustainable development is therefore self-sustaining: creating very limited waste and reducing the need for energy consumption while protecting important ecosystems that help to sustain life.
    Wetland ecosystems are critical habitats because they support a wealth of biodiversity including mammals, birds, amphibians, fish and plants, not to mention numerous microscopic organisms, according to the International Union for the Conservation of Nature. These organisms are losing their habitats to development all over the world especially migratory shore birds and waterfowl that rely on coastal wetlands along the migratory corridor. Barbados is along the Atlantic Flyway (migratory corridor) and because of this Chancery Lane Swamp on the south coast of the island is considered an Important Bird Area (IBA), (Burke in prep.) Important Bird Areas (IBAs) are designated based a number of local, regional and international criteria such as the numbers and types of birds that frequent the wetland, the presence of endemic or endangered species and the levels of varying habitat changes that permanent resident and migratory species can withstand.
    Many transatlantic migrants are looking for a variety of wetland types and each swamp on the island provides a different habitat for them. The existence of these swamps is essential to the survival of resident, migratory and wintering waterbirds. “Ideally two no-shooting wetlands could be maintained, one in the north and one in the south east, to offer sanctuary to weary shorebirds. This along with the preservation of Chancery Lane Swamp would provide some refuge” (Burke in prep.) Many birds spotted at this site are currently being protected on a national level by the Wild Birds Protection Act of June 20th, 1907 (with amendments). The preservation of Chancery Lane Swamp would bring us closer to preserving critical habitat for birds listed in this Act. To date we are doing very little as a nation to ensure that we are upholding this Act.
    Chancery Lane Swamp is located on the south side of the island and according to the PDP “The site is of great natural beauty and provides a dramatic view to the sea from the escarpment above.” It is also “A site of natural significance to Barbados that exhibits the diversity of coastal wetland, in a relatively undeveloped state. It has importance as a bird and sea turtle nesting area and is important as a recreational and education resource as well as a location of archeological resources.” The site is large and offers birds seclusion from noise, development and other disturbances. Many birds frequent this wetland for this purpose. It is also important to note that the Chancery Lane swamp is a safe refuge for birds during shooting season. Unfortunately, development is encroaching from all sides of the swamp including the new Long Beach Hotel condominium development above the swamp to the north east. As a result of encroaching development it is important to keep the existing buffer around the swamp in order to retain its integrity as a relatively remote and undeveloped swamp. Some of the species of birds that have been found at this location are the Osprey (Pandion haliaetus) and Peregrine Falcon (Falco peregrines) (Burke pers. Comm.).
    The Chancery Lane Swamp along with the Graeme Hall Swamp have both been identified as IBAs because of the important role that they play in the conservation of the Little Egret (Egretta garzetta) in the Western Hemisphere. This white heron looks very much like the common Cattle Egret (Bubulcus ibis) but is in fact a different species. The Little Egret first nested in Barbados in 1994 and currently is the only documented place in the New World that the birds breed. Their population relies on Graeme Hall Swamp for nesting and Chancery Lane Swamp for feeding. These wetlands are therefore critical to the conservation of the Little Egret (Kushlan, 2007).This unique grassy marsh also harbors a grove of Buttonwood Mangrove trees (Conocarpus erectus) along the inland shore. This is the only naturally occurring location of this mangrove species on the island (for a list of birds in Chancery Lane Swamp see the bird checklist in the appendix).
    The relevant literature points to the preservation of existing wetlands as being the first step to sustainable development (Wheeler, 2004.) The Government of Barbados is aware of this and has taken the first steps to preserving the site by including information in the PDP geared toward preservation. Such information can be found in the Section Chancery Lane Special Study Area iii) “while most of the site area of the ecosystem is considered environmentally and culturally significant, the study could review the potential to include limited development involving the retention and enhancement of the wetlands, grass areas, beach berm and beach. As part of the final approval process the majority of the site will be designated as a Natural Heritage Conservation Area and may be purchased by the government for conservation, public use and passive recreation activity.”
    Unfortunately, the site is currently owned by a local land developer who wants to develop the site as an “Environmental Estate” (Government of Barbados, 2006). The development proposal includes a residential and commercial (hotel, restaurant, retail and offices) development that would change the face of this site forever. The short term and long term effects of this kind of development are not well understood because an Environmental Impact Assessment and a Sustainability Assessment of the site are yet to be done. Additionally, the cost/benefit analysis for the site does not include long term social and environmental effects of development that must be taken into account in order to ensure all external costs are considered.
    The current state of the site is poor. The swamp offers amazing views and vistas yet has been used as a local dump for many years and contains a lot of garbage and refuse. The invasive plant love vine (Cassytha filiformis) is taking over the north eastern part of the site and if not dealt with soon will suffocate all of the native vegetation. To date many locals frequent the swamp in four wheel drive vehicles compromising the integrity of the wetland by driving in the muddy flats. In the north eastern part of the site within the last few years five mature coconut trees have been cut down for their coconuts. The site is also currently being used as a dumping site for gravel even though there is a sign that threatens fines for illegal dumping. On top of this very visible degradation the area is plagued with theft and crime and is commonly known as a local drug drop beach. An authoritative presence on the beach would be potentially beneficial to all including the local authorities and residents. As a result serious maintenance is required to get the swamp healthy again and consistent diligence will be needed in order to maintain and preserve the integrity of the site.
    The entire Long Beach beach habitat should not be overlooked because it is an important nesting site for sea turtles such as the Green Turtle (Chelonia mydas) and the critically endangered Hawksbill Turtle (Eretmochelys inbricata) protected under the Endangered Species Act. To date many sea turtles nest on Long Beach and their eggs are still being poached at this location. In addition, four wheel drives currently drive on the beach and have been known to damage turtle nests. Long Beach is one of the last undeveloped beaches along the south coast and is one of the most beautiful windows to the sea. Unfortunately it is littered with garbage and refuse and is in need of constant care in order to keep it clean so that it can be maintained as a valuable resource for tourism and wildlife habitat.
    I agree with the reports and assessments of the PDP and therefore my recommendation is to preserve this area as a Natural Heritage Conservation Area. The swamp and the beach are integral to each other and I further, recommend that the beach be included in the site as a National Sea Shore and preserved and maintained by the Government of Barbados. This is not the first time that a local Barbadian has advocated for the preservation of this area in 1979 the late Mr. Hutt proposed the preservation of Chancery Lane Area as a” window to the sea” (Hutt, 1979). The entire area is of great importance to locals as a natural resource and green space for the surrounding community and should therefore be maintained and taken care of as such. The apparent degradation of the site indicates that locals have not been educated on the importance of preserving local habitat. I therefore also recommend that in addition to the preservation of the area signage and educational programs should be put in place in order to educate the public on the importance of preserving natural habitat. This proposal in no way recommends the development of the site for recreation but maintaining it and enhancing it in its current state. The site should be purchased by the government for conservation, environmental education and passive public recreational activity.

    I thank Wayne Burke and Martin Frost for pointing out the relevant literature and helping with the compilation of the Chancery Lane checklist of birds. I could not have done this without them. I also want to thank Natasha Knowles and Erica Timm for reading the first draft of this paper and giving me insightful constructive criticism.


    Burke, W. (in prep.) Important Bird Areas in Barbados, pp x-y in Anadon- Irizarry, V. and Wedge, D.C. (eds) Important bird areas in the Caribbean: key sites for conservation. Cambridge, UK: BirdLife International
    Frost, M. & Burke, W. (2007) Check-list of birds for Chancery Lane Swamp. Unpublished ms.
    Government of Barbados (2003) Physical Development Plan, Amended 2003. Barbados: Town and Country Planning Office.
    Government of Barbados ( 2006) Long Beach development; 2656/08/2006E Beach Side Properties Inc. Long Beach, Christ Church. Retrieved August 24, 2007, from The Barbados Town and Country Planning Office.
    Hutt, M.B. (1979) Windows to the Sea. Barbados CADEC
    Kushlan, J., Burke, W., Frost, M., Massiah, E., (2007) Little Egret conservation in Barbados. Birds Caribbean- Newsletter for the Society of The Conservation and Study of Caribbean Birds.10, 1-2
    Raffaele, H., Wiley, J., Garrido, O., Keith, A. and Raffaele, J. (1998) A Guide to Birds of the West Indies. New Jersey: Princeton University Press
    Wheeler, Stephen. M. (2004) Planning for Sustainability: Creating livable, equitable and ecological communities. New York: Routledge.

    Appendix A
    Checklist of Birds at Chancery Lane Swamp
    by: M. Frost and W. Burke

    Pied-billed Grebe (Podilymbus podiceps) BR

    Magnificent Frigatebird (Fregata magnificens) M
    Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias) M
    Grey Heron (Ardea cinerea) V
    Great Egret (Ardea alba) M
    Little Egret (Egretta garzetta) BR
    Snowy Egret (Egretta thula) BR
    Western Reef-heron (Egretta gularis) V
    Little Blue Heron (Egretta caerulea) M
    Tricolored Heron (Egretta tricolor) M
    Cattle Egret (Bubulcus ibis) BR
    Green heron (Butorides virescens) BR
    Yellow-crowned Night-heron (Nyctanassa violacea) M
    Green-winged Teal (Anas crecca) M
    Blue-winged Teal (Anas discors) M
    Northern Shoveler (Anas clypeata) M
    American Wigeon (Anas americana) M
    Ring-necked Duck (Aythya collaris) M
    Lesser Scaup (Aythya affinis) M
    Hooded Merganser (Lophodytes cucullatus) V
    Ruddy Duck ( Oxyura jamiacensis) M
    Osprey (Pandion haliaetus) M
    Merlin (Falco columbarius) M
    Peregrine Falcon (Falco peregrinus) M
    Sora (Porzana carolina) M
    Purple Gallinule (Porphyrula martinica) M
    Common Moorhen (Gallinula chloropus) BR
    American Coot (Fulica americana) M
    Black-bellied Plover (Pluvialis squatarola) M
    American Golden-Plover (Pluvialis dominica) M
    Collared Plover (Charadrius collaris) V
    Wilson’s Plover ( Charadrius wilsonia) V
    Semipalmated Plover (Charadrius semipalmatus) M
    American Oystercatcher (Haematopus palliates) V
    Black-necked Stilt (Himantopus mexicanus) M
    Common Greenshank (Tringa nebularia) V
    Greater Yellowlegs (Tringa melanoleuca) M
    Lesser Yellowlegs (Tringa flavipes) M
    Spotted Redshank (Tringa erythropus) V
    Solitary Sandpiper (Tringa solitaria) M
    Willet (Catoptrophorus semipalmatus) M
    Spotted Sandpiper (Actitis macularia) M
    Upland Sandpiper (Bartramia longicauda) M
    Eskimo Curlew (Numenius borealis) possibly extinct M
    Whimbrel (Numenius phaeopus) M
    Hudsonian Godwit (Limosa haemastica) M
    Ruddy Turnstone (Arenaria interpres) M
    Red knot (Calidris canutus) M
    Sanderling (Calidris alba) M
    Semipalmated Sandpiper (Calidris pusilla) M
    Western Sandpiper (Calidris mauri) M
    Least Sandpiper (Calidris minutilla) M
    White-rumped Sandpiper (Calidris fuscicollis) M
    Pectoral sandpiper (Calidris melanotos) M
    Stilt Sandpiper (Calidris himantopus) M
    Short-billed Dowitcher (Limnodromus griseus) M
    Common Snipe (Gallinago gallinago) M
    Wilson’s Phalarope (Phalaropus tricolor) M
    Laughing Gull (Larus atricilla) M
    Black-headed Gull (Larus ridibundus) V
    Herring Gull (Larus argentatus) V
    Lesser Black-backed Gull (Larus fuscus) V
    Greater Black-backed Gull (Larus marinus) V
    Gull-billed Tern (Sterna nilotica) M
    Common Tern (Sterna hirundo) M
    Least Tern ( Sterna antillarum) M
    Scaly-naped Pigeon (Columba squamosa) BR
    Zenaida Dove (Zenaida aurita) BR
    Common Ground-Dove (Columbina passerina) BR
    Yellow-billed Cuckoo (Coccyzus americanus) M
    Green-throated Carib (Eulampis holosericeus) BR
    Antillean Crested Hummingbird (Orthorhyncus cristatus) BR
    Belted Kingfisher (Ceryle alcyon) M
    Caribbean Elaenia (Elaenia martinica) BR
    Gray Kingbird (Tyrannus dominicensis) BR
    Fork-tailed Flycatcher (Tyrannus savanna) M
    Caribbean Martin (Progne dominicensis) BR
    Bank Swallow (Riparia riparia) M
    Barn Swallow (Hirundo rustica) M
    Cliff Swallow (Petrochelidon pyrrhonota) M
    Golden Warbler (Dendroica petechia petechia) BR
    Northern Waterthrush (Seiurus noveboracensis) M
    Bananaquit (Coereba flaveola) BR
    Black-faced Grassquit (Tiaris bicolor) BR
    Barbados Bullfinch (Loxigilla barbadensis) BR
    Grassland Yellow- Finch (Sicalis luteola) BR
    Carib Grackle (Quiscalus lugubris) BR
    Shiny Cowbird (Molothrus bonariensis) BR


  7. Bystander I think you are right; my understanding was also that Kerins et al had taken the initiative to establish Caribbean Splash and that Government were considering their application.

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