Public service entities and their non-government organisation partners met today to identify how to combine their resources and expertise while working to restore the Territory’s mangroves.
The meeting comes ahead of a new phase of the Department of Disaster Management-implemented and Caribbean Development Bank-funded SMART Communities Project.
Minister of Natural Resources, Labour and Immigration, Honourable Vincent O. Wheatley said, “I am happy to see that we are moving more aggressively toward taking care of our mangroves. Mangroves provide nurseries for our sea-life as well as protect us against storm surges.”
The minister acknowledged that the Territory has amassed a great deal of data over the years when it comes to planting mangroves, and that he is confident the CDB project will spur a more strategic approach to its restoration.
“I hope within the next 1,000 days, we can see 1,000 new mangroves. We have seen that there is a lot of potential in this area once we put our minds to it,” Honourable Wheatley said.
Conservation Scientist and Consultant for the mangrove restoration portion of the SMART Communities project in the Territory Dr. Louise Soanes explained that it was important to bring all the partners to the table to ensure that no resources on the project are wasted.
The consultant said that a key project goal is to map ideal locations for mangroves to be planted. “I call these mapping areas of opportunity and vulnerability,” Dr. Soanes said. She added, “We need to know what space is available and the areas where mangroves can thrive. We also want to show what areas can receive protection in the event of a storm surge based on the location of the mangroves.”
Dr. Soanes also shared that community partnerships are built in to each step of the project, from consultations with stakeholders; training in mangrove restoration, to ongoing mangrove management. She also added that there will be opportunities for the public to participate in mangrove restoration activities such as mangrove cleanups and planting days.
“We also hope to facilitate discussions around the potential for creating a mangrove nursery here on Tortola,” Dr. Soanes added.
Partners in attendance at the meeting included Deputy Secretary in the Ministry of Natural Resources, Labour and Immigration Mr. Joseph Smith Abbott; National Parks Director Dr. Cassander Titley-O’Neal, H. Lavity Stoutt Community College Principal Lecturer Dr. Lianna Jarecki; Department of Disaster Management Planning and Preparedness Manager Sheniah Armstrong; and Jost Van Dykes Preservation Society Executive Director Susan Zaluski.
The SMART Communities project, which seeks to build flood-resilient communities in the Territory through strong partnerships between Government and NGOs, began in 2017 and should be completed this year.