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The Antigua and Barbuda Government recently announced the country’s intent to join the Commonwealth Blue Charter Action Group on Mangrove Ecosystems and Livelihoods. Noting the importance of the mangroves to mitigating and building resilience to the harmful impacts of climate change, Minister of Social Transformation, Human Resource Development and the Blue Economy, Dean Jonas, acknowledged the crucial role of mangroves and seagrass in building climate resilience in ocean states in the Caribbean.
According to mangroves.org, an academic e-site created for education about this tree, “mangroves are a major contributor to the littoral and marine environments. Mangrove trees are halophytes, plants that thrive in salty conditions. Mangroves have the ability to grow where no other tree can, thereby making significant contributions that benefit the coastal ecology. Their coverage of shorelines and wetlands provides many diverse species of birds, mammals, crustacea, and fish a unique, irreplaceable habitat. Mangroves preserve water quality and reduce pollution by filtering suspended material and assimilating dissolved nutrients.”
Minister Jonas, only too well aware of this, when speaking at a side event at a Commonwealth Secretariat at the United Nations Oceans Conference in Lisbon this week, noted:- “A world without mangroves would likely mean a world with fewer species of fish, more coastal damage and unknown ecosystem and public health consequences related to changes in pollutants, sediments and carbon cycles. “In Antigua and Barbuda, we aim to participate in efforts to help restore wetlands and neighbouring marine communities and thus bring them to a state of better resilience against climate change and other negative events.”
In the meantime, Guyana has started destroying its mangrove to facilitate oil and gas shore base business expansion. In May 2021 when concerns were raised about the uprooting of mangroves at Versailles-Malgre Tout, West Bank Demerara, Minister of Public Works, Juan Edghill, defended the removal, stating that “with development comes changes.” At a press conference hosted by him on May 10, the minister made it clear that “At some stage, mangroves will be displaced. Mangroves will have to be removed.”
Scholars, environmentalists, government, business and non-government organisations that value science, and making developmental decisions based on science, acknowledge the importance of mangroves. In short, mangroves offer the following beneficial effects:
- Basis of a complex marine food chain.
- Creation of breeding habitat.
- Establishment of restrictive impounds that offer protection for maturing offspring.
- Filtering and assimilating pollutants from upland run-off.
- Stabilisation of bottom sediments.
- Water quality improvements.
- Protection of shorelines from erosion.
Guyana’s coastline is below sea level. The inhabitants of the coastal plain and lands are haunted not only by soil erosion, high tides, and heavy rains-that infrastructures such as seawalls, kokers, canals, drainage are not properly maintained and kept pace to mitigate the impact of climate change- but the constant disruption to lives and destruction to livestock, vegetation and properties with heavy rainfalls and high tides. The uprooting of mangroves affects the ecosystem, economies, standard of living, health and wellness.