Fires in Nariva Swamp Ramsar site
[Posted to the Ramsar Forum, 18 April 1998]
Subject: Fires in Nariva Swamp Ramsar Site
The Nariva Swamp is Trinidad and Tobago's only Ramsar site and it was designated on 21st December 1992. It is presently listed on the Montreux Record, and a Management Guidance Procedure was conducted in 1995.
Soon after, the Government of TT removed the illegal large rice farmers (in what is known as Sector B), has been working with the communities, and has taken a number of very positive steps towards the rehabilitation of Nariva, including the preparation of an EIA and a management plan (being carried out by the Institute of Marine Affairs) and hiring of new park rangers from among the local communities.
However, the 15 irrigation channels constructed by the illegal large rice farmers have not been filled in. These have affected deeply the hydrology of the area, rapidly draining the marshes. The extreme dryness of some areas was exacerbated this year by an intense dry season (nationwide) and high winds, which have made the area conducive to fires. At present approximately 3,000 acres of marsh lands have been destroyed by bush fires, and these continue daily.
In response to an alert from The Point-a-Pierre Wildfowl Trust the Bureau of the Ramsar Convention contacted the Government of TT and offered assistance. Help has now been requested to carry out the following two aspects:
1. Inmediate filling-in of the irrigation channels: That would allow for the restoration of the hydrology of the wetland and assist with reducing the fire-hazards. Approximately US$ 10,000 are necessary to carry it out.
2. Fire prevention and suppression: The presence of permanent fire patrols is required to deal with this threat. At present personnel have been brought in from other parts of the country, but the presence of well-trained community personnel can facilitate the implementation of an effective fire program. This will continue on an annual basis supported by the Forestry Division, but urgent assistance is necessary to train some 12-15 local persons in order to start working immediately against the present fires. Over US$ 15,000 are required.
These two components are in keeping with the recommendations listed in the Final Report of the Management Guidance Procedure of the Nariva Swamp, and the Ramsar Convention Bureau is trying to secure these funds and send them to the Government of TT as soon as possible.
The Ramsar Convention Bureau would like to request anyone interested in providing assistance to the Nariva Swamp, to contact the Administrative Authority of the Ramsar Convention in Trinidad and Tobago, which is trying to put out the fires with very limited funding and manpower. To offer your help please contact :
Mr Narine Lackhan, Director of Forestry, Chairman, National Wetland Committee, Long Circular Road, St James, Trinidad and Tobago (tel. +1-868-622 3217, fax. +1-868-628 5503)
Contact with the Administrative Authority of the Ramsar Convention in Trinidad and Tobago can also be made through the Ramsar Convention Bureau.
Many thanks for your interest and support to Nariva!
Montserrat Carbonell, PhD - Regional Coordinator, Neotropics, Ramsar Convention Bureau, rue Mauverney 28, CH-1196 Gland, Switzerland (tel: +41-22-999 0175/0170; fax: +41-22-999 0169)
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