In 2006, the Friends of Graeme Hall Committee put forth the concept of the Graeme Hall national park a Vision for Graeme Hall and Barbados. In this 75-page document it was recommended that the 240-acre swamp and watershed should be preserved as a National Park in alignment with the then Physical Development Plan for Barbados 1988, which also proposed Graeme Hall Wetlands to be a Nature Reserve.
In the mid-1990s 34.25 acres of the western part of the Graeme Hall Wetlands had been acquired by a Canadian philanthropist Peter A. Allard who developed a world class nature sanctuary with its completion in 2003. There is a rich history with the local Barbadian people in the creation of Graeme Hall Nature Sanctuary (GNHS). Many local Barbadians were involved in the development and construction of the eco-tourism site, not to mention those who visited and engaged. It was truly an eco-tourism center that offered activities for everyone, from enjoying the wildlife and migratory birds to visiting the aviaries and walking along the boardwalk.
Sewage Spills & Pesticide Contamination
The neighboring property to the east of the GHNS, which includes an extension of the mangrove, is a sewage treatment plant called the South Coast Sewage Plant (SCSP). The SCSP is owned and operated by the Government of Barbados. There have been major failures of the SCSP, which have been caused by irregular maintenance and operations by the Government resulting in numerous sewage discharges that have contaminated both the western and eastern portions of the wetland. The sewage discharges have been occurring since 2005, while more publicity since November 2016, with the complete collapse of the sewage plant in 2017. Studies have also shown heightened levels of pesticides in the water column which are contributing to the issue coming from the Ministry of Agriculture lands located within the watershed to the north and northeast of the wetland. The severity of the pollution and contamination forced GHNS to close its doors to the public. Environmental experts have recently recommended in 2019 in a report that all human contact be avoided with the property.
The Sluice Gate & Swamp Salinity Levels
The sluice gate, owned by the Government, connecting the mangrove wetland to the ocean, has been neglected through the lack of maintenance and regular operation. Mangrove wetlands require this vital connection to the ocean in order to maintain appropriate salinity levels (i.e., maintain brackish water levels) which allow the mangrove to function and maintain a healthy fish and wildlife community. Mangrove wetlands are used as estuaries for fish and other wildlife that have been observed and documented by professionals in formative years. Unfortunately, the contamination and the lack of connection to the ocean have caused further damage to the health of the various wildlife and fish communities (and in some cases, complete extinction), and to the last remaining significant mangrove forest in Barbados.
Not only is the Graeme Hall Wetlands the last remaining significant mangrove forest on the island, but also one of only three primary roosting areas for migratory and shore birds in Barbados and actually is the last remaining green space between Bridgetown and Oistins. In a densely populated area such as this it is considered a significant bird area by Birdlife International. It also houses the only population of breeding snowy egrets in Barbados. Not only is it a space that one can watch migratory birds but it also provides habitat for some rare and protected species such as the locally threatened Caribbean Coot and Golden Warbler as well as provides roosting habitat for the Osprey and Peregrine Falcon during migration.
The Graeme Hall Wetlands should be protected according to the RAMSAR Convention on Wetlands of International Importance and the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity.
Other Conventions that Barbados is a signatory to which support and encourage the preservation of GHW are:
- 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).