Thu | Jul 2, 2020

Major mangrove restoration project coming for Clarendon

Published:Sunday | June 7, 2020 | 12:00 AMChristopher Serju - Sunday Gleaner Writer
Plans are under way for the ‘Blue Carbon Restoration in southern Clarendon, Jamaica’ project.
Professor Terrence Forrester, chief scientist at SODECO.
Therese Turner-Jones
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As countries look towards a post-COVID-19 future and consider options for supporting economic, environmental and social sustainability, plans are under way for the ‘Blue Carbon Restoration in southern Clarendon, Jamaica’ project, which will seek to restore over 1,000 hectares of degraded mangrove forest and boost ecosystem-based livelihood opportunities.

The Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) recently signed a landmark agreement on mangrove restoration with Solutions for Developing Countries (SODECO), University of the West Indies. The grant, which is worth US$2.45 million, was provided by the ‘UK Blue Carbon Fund’, which was established in the IDB in 2019, and funded by the United Kingdom’s Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA).

The agreement signed by Therese Turner-Jones, IDB’s general manager of the Caribbean Country Department and Jamaica Country Representative, and Professor Terrence Forrester, chief scientist at SODECO, will enhance Jamaica’s ability to adapt and increase its resilience to climate change through a technical assistance programme on mangrove restoration.

The initiative is the first of its kind in a series of blue carbon projects in Latin America and the Caribbean to be implemented by the IDB under its UK Blue Carbon Fund through its Natural Capital Lab and Sustainable Islands programmes. The fund was designed to promote the sustainable management of mangrove forests, as well as accelerate the Blue Economy and sustainable development in countries with important mangrove ecosystems in the Caribbean and Latin America.

“With the recovery to the COVID-19 pandemic and the 2020 hurricane season set to overlap, we urgently need to provide quality green jobs while building resilience to the climate emergency. This project can be a win-win at this remarkably difficult time,” said Turner-Jones.

There is a growing recognition of the critical importance of mangrove forests in providing economic, ecological and social goods and services, including the provision of coastal protection, habitats for commercially important seafood, and the capture and storage of carbon dioxide. The carbon that is captured and stored in these coastal and marine ecosystems is referred to as ‘blue carbon’ and is an important element in reducing the impacts of climate change.

As these vital ecosystems are restored, conserved and managed, their capacity to carry out this natural storage function improves.

ABSOLUTE PRIVILEGE

“This project is the latest in a series of investments by the UK Government in the interest of Jamaica’s Blue Economy. In recent memory alone, there’s been the handover of multi-beam sonar equipment and delivery of a three-week capacity building programme in the area of seabed mapping. Last year, too, Jamaica received a visit from a special representative to the Commonwealth Clean Ocean Alliance stationed within the UK department for environment,” noted Asif Ahmad, British high commissioner to Jamaica.

“These are all strategic and geared towards the development of a sustainable blue economy and overall economic growth. Mitigating the debilitating effects of climate change on our planet is still very much a primary focus area for the UK this year, and this massive restoration effort is very much aligned to those efforts. With one eye on the upcoming Atlantic hurricane season and the next firmly set on the current global pandemic that is COVID-19, this project will not only firm up climate resilience but provide much-needed environmental-friendly green jobs in this most difficult period.”

The project, which will be the largest mangrove restoration project undertaken in Jamaica, is expected to be completed by 2026 and will result in a mangrove system that is viable, healthy and optimally functioning.

“Having this opportunity to restore these decimated mangroves in Jamaica, and with them the several recognised ecosystem services which they provide, is nothing short of an absolute privilege,” Dr Forrester stated.

christopher.serju@gleanerjm.com