Centre coming to promote conservation of Portland Bight
Keisha Hill, Gleaner Writer
To highlight the importance of wetlands in the Portland Bight Protected Area (PBPA), the Caribbean Coastal Area Management Foundation (C-CAM) will be constructing a Wetlands Interpretation Centre in the Salt River area in collaboration with its stakeholders that have an interest in the conservation of the PBPA.
According to Ingrid Parchment, executive director of C-CAM, the objective of building the facility is to create public awareness on the importance of wetlands and the habitats that they provide for the various species of birds, fish, plants and other animals in the PBPA.
"We want persons to recognise the importance of the area. It is a place that provides a habitat for animals and the people who rely on the species that grow there. We also want those persons who are destroying the mangroves to understand that they should not abuse the area as mangroves help to protect against storm surges, thus protecting lives," Parchment said.
Parchment said the facility will serve as an educational centre and an income-generating facility for C-CAM and persons living in the PBPA. School groups will also be able to utilise the facility, as well as tourists (local and overseas). A boardwalk leading to nearby ponds will be created so that persons can see the plants and animals.
"We will also have community tour guides and fishers/boat operators who can become involved, once trained and certified, and take persons to view different areas of the PBPA," Parchment said.
The Wetlands Management Interpretation Centre will also serve as a plant nursery as part of a conservation garden programme and, by extension, persons in the community will be encouraged to take these seedlings into their homes. The seedlings will include indigenous native plants that are under threat, and these persons will be required to care for them as they mature.
This centre will be funded by the Sugar Transformation Unit, Alcoa Foundation and the Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund with some interest being shown from the Jamaica Social Investment Fund.
"The property is owned by SCJ Holdings and they have given us permission to construct the centre there. We are still awaiting final permits from NEPA, the Clarendon Parish Council and a license from TPDCo. All being well, we should have all permits in June and construction should be completed towards the end of September," Parchment said.
According to Parchment, community outreach forms a large part of C-CAM's solution strategy as their programmes introduce those living and working in the PBA to be more effective and to find sustainable ways of utilising its natural resources. The Portland Bight Protected Area encloses 1,876 square kilometres of coastal land and sea and is home to birds, iguanas, crocodiles, manatees, marine turtles and fish, many of which are endemic to the area.