GEORGETOWN, Guyana — A conservation group says it has secured fund to revive an area in St. Vincent and the Grenadines (SVG) where a failed marina project has devastated the marine ecosystem.
The project in Union Island was abandoned almost 20 years ago and residents of the island as well as conservationists say it has disrupted the water currents.
“It destroyed the whole ecological area there. All the marine life there died,” Orisha Joseph, administration and communication officer of Sustainable Grenadines Inc., told a ceremony on Tuesday to launch “Beneath the Surface — Mapping Union Island”, a Local Voices in Climate Change video, during Caribbean Week of Agriculture on Monday.
“So, what we want to do is to restore the area there, to bring down all the piles that are there and to build a green marina and keep the mangrove fingers and all of that intact,” Joseph, said.
She said residents of Union Island, which is part of the Southern Grenadines, helped in the creation of a 3D model of the island that maps the location of various natural resources and how they have changed over time.
“So, it was that bottom-up approach and they were really excited about it.”
She said that her group — which is registered in Grenada and SVG and has also built a 3D model of Tobago — has secured funds from an agency.
“So now we plan to restore it,” she said of the area affected by the failed project.
She said that her group hopes to remove the sheet piles because they have stopped water circulation in the area.
“But, the amazing thing and the really cool part about it is that mangroves has grown on all the fingers there,” she said, adding that the hope is that if the sheet piles are removed, mangroves will grow in the area.
She said her group also wants to restore corals in the area.
However, Joseph said that restoring the area is more easier said than done because governmental approval is needed.
She said the government has said that the project is the subject of on-going litigation.
“So we don’t have permission to actually do the restoration though we have the money and backing from the Nature Conservation and other organisation.
“The government apparently don’t want to give us permission because they have some investors who may want to continue to build a marina there. So that’s the ticklish situation there,” Joseph said.
She, however, said that her group is lobbying the government and other stakeholders in an effort to gain permission to remedy the environmental disaster.
And, Jennifer Cruickshank-Howard, SVG’s acting chief fisheries officer, who was also at the screening, said in an interview that her government is in conversation with Sustainable Grenadines Inc. and other agencies that have “interest” in the area.
“Well, from the information that was obtained from the studies that was done, I guess we have to look at the data and then after that we will be able to determine whether it is a good project, or whether it is feasible to remove them now,” she said of the sheet piles.
“But, from dialogue with persons in the area, they are the ones who are requesting that those piles be removed so that they can have a greener area,” the fisheries official said.
The film generated a lively discussion about the balance between development and preservation of natural resources.
One participant said he would like to see the 3D modelling of Barbuda implemented soonest.
My heart was made glad when I read the article published in the I-Witness News that finally, money was being secured to correct the wrongs that were done by the construction of a marina in Union Island almost 20 years ago.
Then I was saddened as I read further that in spite of funds now being secured to help restore the damaged area, that the SVG government still seem to be creating stumbling blocks in preventing the problems created by the failed marina from being solved. In the first place, that marina should never have been built in that part of the island that was already designated a conservation area. Secondly, since it’s been almost 20 years the people of Union Island have been suffering the ill effects of this project, why hasn’t the government moved faster on the recommendations that were given by the many studies that were done by Sustainable Grenadines and other organizations? How much longer does the government plan to make the people of Union suffer because of a litigation issue that doesn’t seem to have an end? If this had taken place on mainland St. Vincent where the health and livelihood of the people were affected, I doubt it would still be an issue today.
Unless the SVG government has the money to restore the lagoon in the very near future, then it’s time the ministries involved embrace the funding that’s been made available and work with Sustainable Grenadines and other stakeholders and make the revitalization of the Ashton Lagoon become a reality – SOON. Think about it, almost 20 years people in the area have been breathing foul smelling air, sailing in a lagoon robbed of sea life and people robbed of a livelihood. Why do the people of the Southern Grenadines (especially Union Island) always have to fight the government for what they want or need? St. Vincent needs the Grenadines just as much as the Grenadines need St. Vincent. Please don’t let the name of the country just be a cliche.
I await the soon announcement of the beginning of the restoration of the Ashton Lagoon.
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