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Land Management History
Dried Corals

Why we frown and sigh so much...

The history of environmental degradation in Barbados begins when Barbados was colonized by Europeans in 1627. During the 16th century much of the island was denuded to make room for sugar plantations and thus set a precedent for the way we treat our lands today. Over the years swampy and marshy areas, which were common on the South and West Coasts of the island, were filled in  to make the land ‘usable’ and habitable. 

Fast forward to 2021, the island has been developed considerably over the rise and fall of the sugar industry and the rise of the tourism industry. The landscape has changed so much over a 300-year period that it would be totally unrecognizable to the first colonizers who described the island as having dense forest cover and marshy areas along the South and West coasts. The eastern coastline has not changed much due to its rugged nature as well as its clay soils that tend to slip and severely limit development. The “Scotland District”, where the geology has limited physical development, is now home to the only National Park on the island.  

To this date, despite several efforts, community and otherwise, to create protected areas for some of our most ecologically sensitive land habitats, only the Barbados National Park, in the Scotland District has been officially designated. Graeme Hall Swamp on the south coast was designated a Ramsar site but remains at high risk. Chancery Lane Wetland, Jack in the Box Gully and lie outside of the National Park and despite several efforts still only have Special Study Area designation in the 2003 Physical Development Plan (PDP) of Barbados. The most recent 2017 draft PDP designates them as part of the proposed Natural Heritage Open Space System. Long Pond, Green Pond, Hackleton’s Cliff Area, Turners Hall Woods and Highland all lie within the National Park and are also proposed as Conservation Areas under the Natural Heritage System in the Draft 2017 PDP.

Our Stark Reality

Ecosystems on our island are under threat due to our way of life and the way that we perceive and use them. It is time for Barbadians to foster a new ethic for ‘These fields and hills’ as we set out on a journey to reconnect with that which makes us who we are and supports us.

Do we really want to be remembered by future generations as destroyers of life and ecosystems, who watched as some of our most precious and ecologically sensitive areas were destroyed through neglect, pollution and degradation? Or shall we collectively turn the tables, begin to fully understand our history and where we are currently, as a nation, with respect to protecting our ecologically sensitive areas and shift our consciousness to a new ethic, a land ethic where we respect and preserve our natural ecosystems and put systems in place to achieve this?

The Watershed Concept

The connectedness of our ecosystems through water leads us to embrace a watershed approach in our efforts at site specific conservation. Some of the water that falls on land percolates into aquifers and is used for domestic, industrial and agricultural purposes. The rest ends up in our ocean through runoff or groundwater percolation. Along the way water collects all types of pollutants and carries them through our watersheds into our water supply, estuaries, rivers and nearshore marine environments. These pollutants come from our activities: our homes, our industries, our transportation systems and our agriculture. The health of the natural ecosystems that we seek to protect is directly related to the health of the water that either passes through them or is used by them.

 

The Problem we Seek to Address- The Implementation of Protections.

 

Many of the ecologically sensitive areas that we have identified have some level of protection in place, however, these protections such as the RAMSAR convention for the protection of wetlands or the Natural Heritage Conservation Area land designation of the Physical Development Plan fail have not been effective. These and other areas suffer from chemical and bacterial overload, physical destruction of ecologically sensitive habitat, inappropriate waste disposal (solid and liquid) and a lack of a coordinated private or public effort to manage and sustainably utilize these spaces for the benefit of all Barbadians.

 

Multilateral Environmental Agreements

 

We are guided by the many multilateral environmental agreements that Barbados is party to, such as the Convention on Biological Diversity, the Ramsar Convention and the Cartagena Convention. We are also guided by the many national level policies and plans that Barbados has put in place to support ecosystem conservation. Our intention is to help make the aims of these agreements and plans a reality.

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