The Implementing Land, Water and Ecosystem Management (IWECo) in The Bahamas project is a part of an overall network for small island developing states in the Caribbean region. The aim is to use innovative solutions for land and watershed restoration and management to increase ecosystem resilience. The Global Environment Facility (GEF) is funding the project and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) is the lead implementing body. The Department of Environmental Planning and Protection (DEPP) in the Ministry of the Environment and Housing serves as the Executing Agency and the Bahamas National Trust (BNT) is the Partner Executing Agency. A wide cross-section of public and private stakeholders, experts and environmental managers are working collaboratively to achieve project outcomes over a three-year period, February 2020 to January 2023.
The project is focused on 20,000 hectares of mangrove wetlands and pine forests which will also be included in the watershed management plan. Three creek systems will be restored: August Creek including Snapper Creek and McLean’s Town culverts, Northshore Gap, and Ridge Creek.
The project is intended to:
- Develop an inventory of the fish, marine mammals, flora, fauna, and bird life;
- Design and standardize methods of restoring natural water resources;
- Implement training for residents in earning a living through ecotourism activities;
- Design and implement a citizen science programme for women and youth.
These objectives are all integral to making the East Grand Bahama community more resilient. While this project will have a direct impact on the natural environment and the residents of Grand Bahama, it will also serve as a model for future projects in The Bahamas and small island developing states in the Caribbean.
The Bahamas has a distinctive natural environment. Productive coral reefs and other natural habitats, as well as a large area of coastal wetlands like mangrove forests feed an abundance of fish and underwater life in the archipelago and the Caribbean region. The coral reefs of The Bahamas comprise about 5% of the world’s total coral reef systems. Endemic plant and bird life are also located within the project site.
For East Grand Bahama, the most significant threats have been a rising number of invasive species, the adverse effects of climate change, degradation of natural systems, and destructive human and development practices. Through the IWECo The Bahamas project, a model of integrated land, water and ecosystem management for The Bahamas and other Small Island Developing States will be implemented.
Project components include:
- Development and implementation of integrated, innovative technical solutions for the maintenance of ecosystem health;
- Strengthening of national environmental monitoring and evaluation systems;
- Improving the enabling environment through policy, legislative and institutional reforms and improving capacity for sustainable natural resource management;
- Enhancing knowledge exchange, best practices, replication and stakeholder involvement in a natural resource management.
Under a Small Scale Funding Grant between the Bahamas National Trust (BNT) and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) for the Global Environment Facility (GEF), a Rapid Ecological Assessment (REA) was conducted of East Grand Bahama in April 2016.
The REA documented the marine (underwater life), botanical (plant life) and avian (bird life) components. Three major tidal creeks were surveyed – Gap Creek, Ridge Creek and August Creek. The report gives baseline information on the project area and will also help guide the development of the watershed management plan for the East Grand Bahama. A comprehensive Biodiversity Inventory will also be completed as part of the project outcomes.
The Gap Creek area has both dwarf and fringing mangroves, deep holes and a vast array of fish including mojarra, gray snapper, barracuda; baitfish, schoolmaster snapper and juvenile grunts, as well as blue-striped grunts. There are also habitats for porkfish, barracuda, mosquitofish and minnows.
Dwarf mangroves are also present at Ridge Creek, a site with even more diverse fish. Thriving among the mangroves are snappers, grunts, Barracuda, several mojarra species and pinfish. Seagrass, mud and sand are present.
Within the East Grand Bahama National Park area, August Creek has expanses of sand and mud, vegetation and mangroves as well as several blue holes. It also teems with snappers, grunts, mojarra, parrotfish, and grouper.
East Grand Bahama features an intact Pine Woodland (PW) system and Ephemeral Fresh Water Wetlands (EFWW). The terrain has a number of plant species that are natural only – or endemic to – The Bahamas. Unfortunately, over the years, successive storms have killed many of the pines.
Among the collection of seven endemic species recorded in the REA, was Symphotrichium lucayanum, known only to grow in the Pine Woodlands of Grand Bahama. An invasive, the ground orchid Eulophia graminea, grows over a wide area.
Birds use the pine woodlands and the mangrove creek systems as their habitats and their presence is sometimes seasonal. As many as 34 various species were recorded during the REA.
In East Grand Bahama are the Bahama Woodstar Hummingbird, Calliphlox evelynae evelynae; Bahama Yellowthroat, Geothlypis rostrata; and Bahama Swallow Tachycineta cyaneoviridis. Thick-billed Vireos, Vireo crassirostris and more wading and shorebirds are also common to the area. The Bahama Warbler, Setophaga flavescens is known to live in the woodlands of Grand Bahama.
You can read more about the ecological diversity of East Grand Bahama by clicking here.
Taking care of the Earth is our collective responsibility. Government entities, the private sector, and members of the public all have a role to play in protecting, conserving and properly managing our natural resources not only for our present, but for our future. Doing nothing to foster good habits and practices is just as detrimental as contributing to destructive activities.
This responsibility looms large for The Bahamas as a small island developing state which has suffered from major hurricanes and whose economic robustness is tied to the health of its ecosystems. This is the moment for the Grand Bahama community especially to reconnect with the natural environment in ways that will sustain it and develop livelihoods grounded in unique natural features.
The Implementing Land, Water and Ecosystem Management (IWECo) in The Bahamas project, focusing specifically on East Grand Bahama, is a call to action that we must not ignore. The Biodiversity Inventory to be produced will provide information that will be shared nationally and regionally. The systems and mechanisms developed for managing our scarce natural water resources are critical to current and future strategies. Similarly, the involvement of women and youth through citizen science initiatives will foster positive connections with the environment and will serve as a model for other islands.
The balance must be restored in our consumption, conservation and development activities. The time is now for us to incorporate systematic climate resiliency and adaptation in our local, national and regional efforts. This project is a deliberate path to increasing our stewardship and management of our precious natural resources. Your feedback is important to us, so stay connected for the duration of this journey, share your views and follow our social media to keep abreast of our progress.
Mrs. Rochelle Newbold
Department of Environmental Planning and Protection
Ministry of the Environment and Housing
The IWECO The Bahamas project is being executed with carefully crafted objectives and clearly defined project activities. Consultations with a broad cross section of public and private sector stakeholders, civil society, and members of the public is integral for a cohesive approach to implementing land, water and ecosystems management.
Over the course of this three-year project, a Project Steering Committee and sub-committees will be collaborating on implementing various components and fulfilling the outcomes. There will be various opportunities for further consultations with the East Grand Bahama community and residents of Grand Bahama on the way forward.
Stakeholder entities include:
- Department of Environmental Planning & Protection (DEPP)
- Bahamas National Trust (BNT)
- Ministry of Grand Bahama
- East Grand Bahama Local Government
- EGB Island Administrator
- Ministry of Public Works
- Grand Bahama Port Authority
- Water & Sewage Cooperation
- Grand Bahama Utility Company Ltd.
- Bonefish & Tarpon Trust
- Department of Marine Resources
- Engineering & Technical Services
- The Nature Conservancy
- Department of Forestry
- University of The Bahamas
- Grand Bahama Power Co.
To connect with us and join in the consultations, send us an email.