St. Thomas Residents Urged to Protect Wetlands


Residents of coastal communities in St. Thomas are being urged to educate themselves on the ecology and value of wetlands so as to conserve and protect this vital resource.
President of the St. Thomas Environmental Protection Agency (STEPA), Terrence Cover, made the appeal while addressing a meeting held yesterday (June 30) at the Anglican Church Hall, St. Thomas, to review the Great Morass/Bowden Morass and Associated Coastal Areas Community Awareness Campaign.
The campaign, aimed at protecting the watershed communities in the St. Thomas Great Morass, Bowden Morass, and surrounding coastal areas, was funded by the Environmental Foundation of Jamaica (EFJ) at a cost of some $2.3 million. It started in August 2007 and is expected to be completed in August of this year.
Mr. Cover said the St. Thomas Great Morass, Bowden Morass and surrounding coastal areas were vital habitat for numerous species, adding that the dynamic ecology of these areas “provide critical services of natural disaster mitigation, biological and chemical filtration and local climate control.”
He said that human activities and the lack of understanding of these areas have led to the exploitation of natural resources. Mr. Cover added that unsustainable fishing techniques, cutting of mangroves for timber and charcoal production and the dumping of garbage were threatening the longevity of the region. He said that these actions are caused and complicated by low income levels and lack of employment opportunities.
“If failure to address these problems continue there is a risk of permanent destruction of these areas, including loss of vital habitat and nurseries which will lead to collapse of fisheries and decrease income of local fishermen,” he said.
During the campaign, Mr. Cover said that 10 community consultative meetings, five community awareness workshops and one stakeholder conference were held by STEPA. Another conference will be held this month to close the awareness campaign.
He noted that the objectives of these workshops were to educate at least 500 community members from 10 areas in the parish. Some of the topics discussed included the ecology and services of mangrove, seagrass beds and coral reefs, good waste management practices, environmental laws and means of sustainable income generation over a six-month period.
Other agencies participating in the campaign include the National Environment and Planning Agency, the Forestry Department, the University of the West Indies, the Island Special Constabulary Force, the National Solid Waste Management Authority, and the Social Development Commission.

JIS Social