RESIDENTS URGE AUTHORITIES TO SAVE THE ISLAND’S LAST REMAINING WETLAND.
By Marlon Madden
Residents of the St Lawrence, Christ Church community and surrounding areas are calling on the Government to restore the Graeme Hall wetland to its former glory, as they raise concern about the increasingly strong stench of sewage coming from the nearby sewage treatment plant.
Additionally, Lani Edghill, conservationist and Executive Director for the conservation and biodiversity protection organisation The Land Conservancy (TLC), said they were concerned about the lack of communication from authorities and the cutting down of trees in a section of the swamp.
When a Barbados TODAY team visited the area on Tuesday, several workers from the Drainage Division of the Ministry of the Environment were busy cleaning months of build-up beneath the roadway that leads to the sluice gate.
On Sunday, officials from the Wastewater Division of the Barbados Water Authority (BWA) carried out maintenance work at the nearby South Coast Sewage Treatment Plant in Harmony Hall.
Edghill said while they welcomed these developments, the fact that the sluice gate remained close, a dirt road leading from the Amity Lodge community to the sewage treatment plant was reopened, trees have been cut down and sections of the swamp filled in with marl were of major concern.
“As you can see, there is some encroachment happening that is reducing the size of the area as well as how much area is actually able to be used for wildlife,” said Edghill
“Whether the road was here before or not doesn’t really matter. There is a very much established road here at the back of the swamp and they filled in an area at the back here that should never have been done because now we have less swamp, less wetland and less ecosystem for the animals that live here,” she said.
She said the clearing of trees in the area had the potential for some species to “invade the ecosystem” and result in the loss of species that are endemic to the area. There could also be flooding, she added.
Edghill said if Barbados was serious about the issue of climate change then authorities would treat the wetland better.
The environmental planner, who described the mangrove trees as “the superhero trees in the fight against climate change”, explained that they were able to “sequester carbon three to four times as much as a regular tree”.
“If we are on the frontline of climate change and we are asking countries to mitigate all of their climate impacts, and we want to be a shining star in this climate fight then we need to save a place like this and we need to improve the ecosystem,” she said.
Edghill feared that the Government had plans for the area and was not sharing pertinent information with residents.
“One of the issues we have been experiencing for some time in the community is a lack of communication from the Government on what is actually happening down here,” she said, as she pointed to the clearing of trees in the area some months ago.
“Community members, businesses, we all want to know what is happening with the sewage treatment plant. We all know a new one was proposed but since the meeting two years ago there has been no update on that and in that meeting they actually had the emergency outfall in the swamp itself,” she said.
With the increasing frequency of a stronger stench of sewage in the area, residents said they were being reminded of the flow of sewage on the south coast several years ago.
“The public is interested to know exactly what the next steps for the ecosystem are and how the government plans to ensure sewage doesn’t make its way back into this precious ecosystem,” she said.
“They don’t want what happened before to happen again. They just feel like they are not being communicated with about the issues with the sewage treatment plant, and they also want to see Graeme Hall as a place where tourists could come and they have cottage industries created so that we can create businesses for locals,” said Edghill.
“We want to work with the government to assist them in developing these areas to become the protected areas that they should be,” she said, adding that TLC was still pushing ahead with his lobby for the Graeme Hall wetland to be designated a protected area.
One resident who would only give her name as Rose, told Barbados TODAY she believed authorities should get the swamp cleaned, as she complained about the stronger than usual stench of sewage.
In addition, the elderly woman, who said she lived in the area all her life, suggested that authorities clean the swamp and open the sluice gate regularly.
“That is what would keep the air fresh, the mosquitoes and rats away, all of that. Another thing we have is the monkeys. If you have it like this, what do you expect? You will have a breeding hole for anything,” she said.
“The swamp is overrun with bush. It is a breeding hole for rodents,” she added.
Declaring that “all is not well” in the area, the woman complained that “from the time they got rid of the men who cleaned the swamp that was the beginning of the end” for the area.
Like other residents, she recalled being able to take leisurely walks by the swamp to observe the various marine life or to catch crabs, but complained that this had not been possible for many years.
Tricia Walcott, who lives with her family a stone’s throw away from the sewage treatment plant, said she was tired of putting up with the strong stench, which she said seemed a lot more powerful in recent weeks, forcing her to close her windows.
“You can smell it coming through your bathroom. You go to wash your mouth at the sink and you smell it coming through,” she exclaimed.
“The sewage is awful. It is a big concern right now. It is to the point where I think that sewage is making us sick, to be honest,” she added.
She welcomed the cleaning of the area closest to the sluice gate, but said she wished they would open it to keep the area fresh.
“They don’t have any workers. They used to clean it and everything used to be so clean and nice. You could look from here all to the sewage plant,” she reminisced.
She shared the view that the area could be rehabilitated for the benefit of residents and tourists.
“I feel if they had it do up nice they could use it as a tourist attraction and we could make some money living ‘bout here. Right now, out there got a lot of monkeys again. If we get the swamp, imagine cleaning it up and then fence round some areas, you know how sweet this would be. They only got the sewage mashing it up,” she said.
While two residents told Barbados TODAY they did not have any concerns, other residents agreed that the swamp was in need of regular maintenance with one man stating “We are concerned that the sewage problems will happen again. I live around here and I know the signs. We [are] smelling it more than usual again.”