What are the main threats for the Graeme Hall Wetlands (GHW)?
Since 2005 the GHW has been faced with severe pollution and environmental damage. The South Coast Sewage Plant (SCSP) is located within the GHW and is owned and operated by the Government of Barbados (the "Government"). There have been major failures of the SCSP caused by decades of irregular maintenance and operations by the Government. Irresponsible and negligent actions by the Government have directly resulted in numerous sewage discharges contaminating the GHW. The sewage discharges have been occurring since 2005, while more publicity since November 2016, with the complete collapse of the sewage plant in 2017.
In addition to failing to maintain and operate the SCSP, the Government has also continuously failed to maintain and operate the sluice gate diligently and responsibly resulting in further damage to the health of the salt-tolerant mangroves and wildlife. This is a vital function in the maintenance and survival of a healthy fish and wildlife community within the GHW. Environmental experts have warned that if the trend continues and the lake becomes a freshwater body it would likely cause the complete destruction of the mangroves by losing their competitive advantage to freshwater plants.
What is the difference between Graeme Hall Mangrove Wetlands, Graeme Hall Swamp and Graeme Hall Nature Sanctuary?
The Graeme Hall Mangrove Wetlands (a.k.a. Graeme Hall Swamp) is an important ecosystem to Barbados and has several unique features. It has the largest body of inland water (12-acre lake) on the island and contains the largest remaining area of red mangrove and white mangrove forest. On December 12, 2005, the Government of Barbados signed the RAMSAR Convention on Wetlands of International Importance to become a contracting party. As a contracting party to the convention, it internationally recognizes the 81-acre Graeme Hall Swamp as a RAMSAR site. As party to the convention, the contracting parties are encouraged to protect and conserve biological diversity.
The Graeme Hall Nature Sanctuary (GHNS) is a private property which occupies 42 percent of the Graeme Hall Swamp, a site protected under the RAMSAR Convention. Prior to the sewage spills at GHNS, it was operated as a nature sanctuary and ecotourism site. GHNS began with the acquisition of 34.25 acres of wetlands in 1994, followed by the development of a visitor center between 1998 and 2004 and further capital improvements to the property between 2006 and 2008. Unfortunately, since 2005 and almost continuously to late 2017 there have been sewage spills into GHNS, and in addition to the complete collapse of the neighbouring property the South Coast Sewage Plant in 2018, the severity of pollution and contamination became too significant that GHNS was forced to close its doors in the interest of public safety.
Are the Graeme Hall Mangrove Wetlands an international protected area?
Relevant Conventions that Barbados is a Signatory that also apply to the preservation of GHW can be found below:
- The Ramsar Convention on Wetlands of International Importance especially as Waterfowl Habitat (Convention on Wetlands or RAMSAR Convention).
- Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES).
- The Convention for the Protection and Development of the Marine Environment in the Wider Caribbean Region (Cartagena Convention).
- Specially Protected and Wildlife Protocol to the Cartagena Convention (SPAW Protocol).
- Land Based Sources of Pollution Protocol of the Cartagena Convention (LBS Protocol).
- Convention on Migratory Species (CMS).
- Biological Diversity (CBD).
Also, Graeme Hall Wetland has been identified by:
- Birdlife International - As an important Bird Area.
- Barbados’ Physical Development Plan Amended 2017 - Natural Heritage Conservation Area.
- Caribbean Coastal Marine Productivity Programme (CARICOMP) monitoring site - Designated as one of two monitoring sites in the Caribbean.