Barbados: Collaboration and enforcement - the missing pieces of the puzzle in managing the Graeme Hall Swamp (# 477)

The Graeme Hall Swamp is linked to the St. Lawrence Lagoon and is the last remaining coastal wetland in Barbados. The wetland has been designated as a Natural Heritage Conservation Area and has also been established as one of two Caribbean Coastal Marine Productivity Programme (CARICOMP) monitoring sites in Barbados. The Graeme Hall Watershed, located in the south of Barbados, spans 1,156 acres. The most significant element of this watershed is the Graeme Hall Swamp. 

The 56-acre, eastern section is owned by the Barbados Government while the remaining 35 acres is privately owned and under the management of the Graeme Hall Nature Sanctuary (GHNS). The wetland has the following values: biodiversity, recreation; education; flood control; cultural and heritage value; and bequest values.

Main Problems Faced

There are several sources of economic, social and environmental concerns within the watershed: agricultural fields; residential areas; sewerage treatment facility; and tourism activities on the nearby beach. Given the stresses on the ecosystem the GHS closed its doors to the public in 2009 and has not opened for visitation since. The following problems manifest from a weak management practices and low enforcement of the current national legislation:

  • There is no exchange between the wetland and the sea;
  • There are no adequate buffers to mitigate the effects of storm water from nearby residential, commercial and agricultural areas on the quality of water in the wetland; and
  • There is the threat of effluent discharge into the wetland from the nearby sewage treatment plant, given an emergency situation.

Actions Taken and Outcomes

Several pieces of legislation have set the foundation for the protection of the wetland. Also, the GHNS and Barbados Government have both conducted research towards the restoration of the area. The public has been engaged through awareness initiatives. However, due to the challenges faced by the major stakeholders, the wetland continues to degrade. The legislation has not been enforced and the actions of the GHNS and general public were not enough to prompt action by the Barbados Government.

Lessons Learned

The establishment of legislation is only one step in water resources management as without the political will to enforce the legislation, little progress can be made towards the wetland’s restoration. Indeed, numerous, but scattered actions were taken by the individual stakeholders, however, in order to develop a truly sustainable and mutually beneficial solution there is need for an integrated masterplan, developed with input from both stakeholders.

Photo credit: By ChrisJBrady (Photography Previously published: No) [GFDL ( or CC BY-SA 3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons