Preparing for the Next Disaster – Environmental groups work to make Portland Cottage Ready

By: Horace Fisher, freelance writer

Climate Change artiste Camille Davis shows off red mangrove seedlings

May Pen, Jamaica. August 30, 2011 – “It’s the Mangroves trees that save a lot persons lives in Portland Cottage, when Hurricane Ivan and Dean slammed into the community,” declared Derrick Whyne, while feverishly mending a fishing pot, in the shade of some shrubs; on the Portland Cottage fishing beach.

“When the hurricanes (Ivan and Dean) lick Portland Cottage, the Mangroves trees break the force of the water, generated by the storm surges, before it (water) flood the community,” explained Mr. Whyne, a fisherman for the past 11 years.

Mr. Whyne said that if the Mangroves trees hadn’t broken the force of the water, before it (the water) hit the community, the destruction of property and the loss of life would be far greater in Portland Cottage, where six persons were killed as a direct result of hurricane Ivan in 2004.  “All of those dead tree stumps over there were once flourishing Mangroves trees that the hurricanes kill out, so I am glad that somebody is planting them back,” added the fisherman, pointing towards a group of volunteers, planting Mangrove seedlings along the Portland Cottage coast-line.

About 30 volunteers from a number of environmental groups gathered to help the community replant mangroves recently. The volunteers were from the Mocho Community Development Association (MCDA) Panos Caribbean, Caribbean Coastal Area Management Foundation (CCAM), National Environment Education Committee (NEEC) Portland Cottage Citizen Association (PCCA), Port Royal Marine Laboratory and the Voices for Climate Change Education Project.

The volunteers were able to replant about 400 hundred (red and black) Mangrove seedlings along the Portland Cottage coast-line and to participate in an environment awareness concert within the community. This is the second time the Volunteers have done replanting in Portland Cottage. On World Wetlands Day in February the group organized and planted another 300 mangroves. The two activities are a part of a project on communicating climate change and biodiversity being implemented by the Mocho Community Development Association and key partners. The project is funded by the Global Environment Facility Small Grants Programme and the Environmental Foundation of Jamaica. Christian Aid has also contributed to the Voices Project. The mangrove replanting is a part of several environmental conservation activities that the Project will be hosting for the rest of the year.

Paul Kisson, from the Port Royal Marine Laboratory, said that Mangrove trees are very versatile plants, that can adapted to salt, brackish and fresh water. It is also of significant economical value because of its natural use as a nursery and shelter for fish and other marine life. It also acts as a nutrients reducer, coastal binder and a giant sponge, Kisson explained.

“Mangroves trees trap excessive nutrients before it goes out in the open sea and on to the Coral Reefs, where it would other-wise kill or damage the delicate Corals,” said Kisson, who is a laboratory technician at the Port Royal laboratory. “The trees also act as a giant sponge that absorbs excessive water, especially after a heavy down pour and is a buffer between the land and the sea.”

While leading the mangrove replanting Kisson stressed that mangroves are an excellent land appreciation agent, because of its ability to trap sediments, which subsequently build up to form solid land spaces. The mangroves trees also bind the coast-line, protect it from erosion and form an important habitat for a whole host of biodiversity.

“More-over, the Mangroves are  an important habitat for fish, sharks, sting rays and other marine species, therefore, if we destroy the Mangroves, the stock of these species would fall drastically, and make the coast-line vulnerable to flooding and coastal erosion,” warned Mr.Kisson.

Recording artiste, Boom Dawn, insists that the environment” is like children that need parental care and supervision.
“If we don’t take care of the environment, it will suffer and die, because the environment is just like children that need special care, and all that we are doing now (Mangrove restoration) is for our children benefits,” stated singer and song writer, Boom Dawn, who is a member of the Voices for Climate Change education Project being implemented by Panos Caribbean and the National Environmental Education Committee. (End/30/08/11)


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