Sustainable Grenadines Inc (SusGren), has been working under the mantra of ‘one, one does full basket’ and now, after a decade and some change, there is light at the end of the tunnel for the Ashton Lagoon Restoration project.
Since its inception in 2007, the project has had to be done in phases in light of the tremendous financial and environmental undertaking facing the SusGren team- a local conservation agency.
The team had the challenge of restoring the area after a marina-hotel-golf-course development was initiated in 1994. The project was eventually abandoned when the development company declared bankruptcy, leaving catastrophic damage to the area.
Over the years, SusGren, a non-governmental organization, has undertaken a number of projects to restore the lagoon. In a few weeks, SusGren will be jumping into phase three of the restoration work to address the die-back area located in the center of the mangrove.
Executive Director of SusGren, Orisha Joseph, spoke to SEARCHLIGHT about the next phase of the restoration project scheduled to start in April and funded through a grant from the Caribbean Biodiversity Fund to the tune of US$800,000. One of the objectives listed under this project is the construction of a Swale system.
“A Swale system is to allow for water flow into the mangrove area, which is to improve or to restore the hydrology in the mangrove forests because when you fly over the area, you will realize that in the middle of the mangrove, it’s grey and it’s like it’s dying. That is because the hydrology of that area has not been restored completely.”
If all goes well, Joseph said the area should be fully restored within one to five years.
“If it’s really good. We can see that area being restored in as little as three years.”
Joseph is upbeat about the progress made over the years to bring the mangrove back to full health.
“In terms of health, it was just dead, nothing happened there for the last 20-something years… where the lagoon is now it’s like 50 percent, and what are we gonna do now, will add another 20 to 30 per cent,” she explained.
Joseph pointed out that evidence of the bouncing back of the lagoon is the improvement of bird life.
“Ashton Lagoon is one of the areas where a lot of migratory birds come to nest during the winter period so now you have a lot of birds coming back to the area that we would have not seen for a while.”
The purple gallinule and the pink flamingo are some of these birds, Joseph noted, adding that marine life is also on the rebound.
“We have seen the area coming back to life during our monitoring…. We even had someone caught baby nurse sharks in the area… sharks are very good indicator species that your environment is healthy. So whenever you see sharks around, it means that you have a healthy ecosystem.”
Joseph listed plans for eco-friendly tourism development including kayak tours, ecological farms as well as upscaling the coral nursery.
“We are also going to upscale with this year’s project where we go in to expand the coral nursery so people who want to come to the island, we will offer snorkelling activities … we are currently growing two types of coral, staghorn and elkhorn coral, usually what is called reef building corals. And they are very important in terms of minimizing wave energy.”