Health Minister Stresses Importance of Wetlands Preservation

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By: Matt Maura

NASSAU, Bahamas –— The threat of climate change as a result of global warming, and the negative impact it can have on low-lying countries such as The Bahamas makes it “very important” for the country to preserve its hills, wetlands and ecosystems, Minister of Health and Social Development, Dr. the Hon. Hubert Minnis said Wednesday.

Addressing parliament on a Resolution for approval for the Treasurer to sell portions of West Bay Street, the Cable Beach median, the Sir Cecil Wallace Whitfield Centre, and the Cable Beach Police and Fire Stations to the Baha Mar Development Group, Dr. Minnis said the protection of the wetlands has to be at the forefront of all developments within The Bahamas – including the one proposed by Baha Mar – as they are critical to the country’s short, medium and long-term survivability.

“Our wetlands assist with groundwater replenishment and water purification and minimize the possibility of flooding and that is a great concern to communities such as the constituency of Killarney,” Dr. Minnis told House Members.

“The wetlands are home to all forms of wild birds, various species of wildlife and several species of fish which all play a critical role in maintaining the balance of the country’s ecosystems.

“Once one can appreciate the value and nature of wetlands, they will understand why wetlands and those types of things that should not be touched,” Dr. Minnis added.

The Minister of Health and Social Development, whose portfolio also includes the environment, said there were some initial concerns that the wetlands in the area where the development is proposed to take place would have been “filled in” resulting in even more devastation with respect to flooding.

Dr. Minnis said the western part of New Providence is already low and currently experiences some degree of flooding.

He said persons living in Grand Bahama and Long Island who have experienced severe flooding, can speak to the devastation that can be caused not only in terms of damage to housing, agriculture and livestock farming and infrastructure, but also to the “psychological impact” it can have on human beings.

The Minister of Health said the preservation and conservation of the wetlands can also have a positive impact on the economy of The Bahamas with regards to the financial benefits that can be accrued through eco-tourism.

Dr. Minnis said he was “very happy to have been informed” that Baha Mar will provide $1million for the development, preservation and conservation of 71.4 acres of  “sensitive, environmentally friendly wetlands” within the constituency of Killarney, provided the development proceeds.

Another $1million, Dr. Minnis said, is scheduled to be used to establish a Foundation that will be responsible for ensuring the sustainability of the integrity of those wetlands.

“It is important for us to remember that the entire Bahamas is considered a coastal zone which means that with all the climate changes that are occurring today and the seas rising and glaciers melting, that The Bahamas is further prone to flooding,” Dr. Minnis added.