Wetlands conservation centre under construction
Construction has begun on the much-anticipated, 40x40 square-foot Wetlands Interpretation Centre in the Salt River area of the Portland Bight Protected Area (PBPA). It will comprise a boardwalk, dipping pond, dock, solar panel fencing, sewage system and parking lot.
Ingrid Parchment, executive director of the Caribbean Coastal Area Management Foundation (C-CAM), said the objective of building the facility is to create public awareness on the importance of wetlands and the habitats that they provide for including the various species of birds, fish, plants and other animals in the PBPA.
"We want to demonstrate sustainability and best practices for energy, water conservation, recycling, and hurricane and flood resistance. We also want to provide an educational and tourist facility that generates an income for C-CAM and residents of the Portland Bight," Parchment said.
An essential component of this programme is that the facility will also serve as an educational centre for persons living in the PBPA.
"About 50,000 persons live within the boundaries of the PBPA in an estimated 44 residential areas. Of the approximately 18,000 fishers in Jamaica, some 4,000 are based in the coastal communities of Clarendon and St Catherine, home to 21 per cent of registered fishing vessels," Parchment said.
This centre is being funded by the Sugar Transformation Unit of the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries in partnership with the Alcoa Foundation, Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund (CEPF) and Seacology, a non-profit environmental conservation organisation.
The centre will also serve as a plant nursery - part of a conservation garden programme, and by extension, people in the community will be encouraged to take indigenous native plants that are under threat into their homes and care for them.
The natural ecosystems of the PBPA provide services that have economic value. These include shoreline protection from storm surges, flooding and beach erosion, fisheries, carbon fixation by forests and tourism opportunities.
The valuable natural resources of this region include dry limestone forests, wetlands, mangrove forests, beaches, seagrass beds, coral reefs, caves, and approximately 379 species of plants and 18 species of native animals, seven of which are found only in the PBPA.