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Major watershed areas to undergo remedial work

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Two major watershed areas in the country are undergoing remedial and preventative work that will make them more resilient to the impacts of climate change.

The rehabilitation and strengthening process is taking place under the European Union (EU) funded ‘ISLAND RESILIENCE’ initiative, the Organization of the Eastern Caribbean States’ (OECS) brand associated with the OECS managed Global Climate Change Alliance (GCCA) project.

This project focuses on sustainable development in Small Island Developing States (SIDS) through sustainable land management towards climate change adaption and local director of Forestry Fitzgerald Providence says that he is grateful for the GCCA project.

“The GCCA, which goes through the OECS, is a regional project encompassing several of the OECS countries and St Vincent and the Grenadines was fortunate to have several components under this project,” said Providence recently.

He revealed that one of the projects is the physical adaptation component that is designed to make local forests and upper watershed areas more resilient to the impacts of climate change.

Providence said that with climate change, we may have unpredictable storms, longer or more serious droughts, heavier rains and because of this unpredictability in the weather, our forests must be resilient to these impacts.

“As you know, since 2010 we have been facing several extreme weather events which have impacted negatively on the forest. Starting with Hurricane Tomas in late 2010, then almost every year the Forestry Department has had to respond to an extreme weather event which has impacted on the forest,” Providence said, also pointing to the April 2011 storm and the 100-year weather event on Christmas Eve 2013.

“…So, when the opportunity came for us to submit some projects for physical adaptation under this GCCA project, we submitted the rehabilitation of the Cumberland and Perseverance watersheds,” revealed Providence, who noted that these two watersheds were impacted severely by extreme weather events, especially in 2011.

“Perseverance or the upper Georgetown watershed and also Cumberland, these areas which radiate from the central mountain range, were chosen because of their relation to the importance of water in St Vincent and the Grenadines,” explained Providence, who noted that the Cumberland watershed has both Central Water and Sewerage Authority (CWSA) and St Vincent Electricity Services (VINLEC) intakes.

“Those areas, particularly for VINLEC, have the highest producing hydropower coming from there. In the Perseverance watershed, the CWSA has a major intake there to supply water, so these projects are important for making the upper watershed areas more resilient and protecting also the middle basin and the lower watersheds,” said Providence, who revealed that the projects encompass “the ridge to the reef.”

The rehabilitation and strengthening process projects have components that deal mainly with the upper watershed areas, but also looking at farming in the middle basin.

The projects include reforestation, developing riparian zones, working with farmers to protect their land, stabilizing river banks and planting agroforestry species, for example fruit trees.

“Out of this project we would be looking at doing watershed management plans, looking at how we can continue to sustainably manage these forest areas to protect them and make them more resilient to extreme weather events,” said Providence.

He added that they are also looking at using the work being done at these two watersheds as models to adapt to other watersheds in the country.

“Our central mountain areas need to adapt to these extreme weather conditions because they are the source of all the water and also the source of all the biodiversity and a lot of other eco system services that the development of St Vincent and the Grenadines depends upon”, said Providence.

The projects are being carried out over a 14-month period.

“The importance of the GCCA is that it hits and impacts on a lot of areas in SVG, not only the physical, but the technical areas, in terms of it being used to strengthen different departments in terms of their ability to work”, explained Providence, adding, “the benefits to SVG is that it helps us to secure our watershed areas in terms of production and the resilience to the impact of extreme weather events”.

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