Wetlands of Trinidad and Tobago
Nariva, Caroni, Oropouche, Los Blanquizales, Cedros, Icacos, Rousillac, Fishing Pond, Godineau, Bucco/Bon Accord, Kilgwyn.
The Nariva wetlands are of international importance, being governed by international treaties and conventions, and partly by domestic legislation. It is a RAMSAR site and a PROHIBITED area. Under the EMA legislation, this site an ENVIRONMENTALLY SENSITIVE AREA.
The Nariva Wetlands are the most ecologically diverse wetlands in Trinidad & Tobago, and is the last bastion for many forms of wildlife. The Wildlife section, Forestry Division, notes that it is considered among the global 200 eco-regions identified for GLOBAL & REGIONAL PRIORITY CARE. Under the Environmental Management Authority Act, several of the Nariva Swamp’s biota are declared sensitive species. It is home to numerous species, including 151 bird species such as the endangered Blue & Gold macaw; 59 mammals including the endangered West Indian Manatee; 25 reptiles and 7 amphibians and many important commercial species. It is RECOGNISED as an essential wildlife refuge and an important breeding habitat. The site is extremely vulnerable to degradation through unsuitable and unplanned development. In 1992/1997 Nariva was threatened by extensive, illegal rice farming and devastating fires as well as the digging of illicit channels, all causing significant damage to the fragile hydrology of the swamp. The wasteland of much of Fishing Pond today and the complaints and regrets of the community there, is testimony to what could happen to Nariva and it’s communities. In 2001, Nariva was AGAIN threatened, this time by the “Cocal Estates Development Plan” with threats of large scale dredging and canals to join the Nariva & Ortoire catchments, salt water intrusion, and the draining out of wet-lands for large scale construction. We know that development of this sort only really benefits the resort developer. We all also know that serious threats are looming again on the horizon.
In Nariva, now an Environmentally Sensitive Area under the EM Act, the Communities there, with help, guidance & support from the Government, State Agencies, NGO's,CBO's & UWI, can and do benefit from the sustainable usage of the ecosystem services. As a “wilderness area” it has considerable economic significance. Travelling through it is an adventure, an experience that is exhilarating and exciting, educational and satisfying; and visitors, local & foreign recognise this. Spectacular scenery, relative ease of access, close views of wildlife, are all factors important to nature-based tourism, AND ARE AVAILABLE IN NARIVA, and contribute significantly to the local and national economy.
However this must all be very carefully managed, monitored and used wisely. There are many other spin-offs that can and will come from the business of nature tourism. Local communities are already involved in these activities. They are also involved with fire prevention, a wildlife-breeding programme and with manatee and turtle conservation. The communities in the area are perfectly aware of the serious and long-term problems that will arise from the destruction and loss of the Nariva Wetlands, as well, as the many benefits that exist for them if the wetlands, the Cocal and its surrounding subsystems are conserved and utilised wisely. Bush Bush Wildlife Sanctuary and the Nariva Wetlands have been and are valuable research sites and many eminent university teachers, professors and students, both local & foreign, have used them and still do, for collecting important data. Just by being there, gives the Nariva intrinsic value.