Protecting nature for everyone to enjoy
Faced with increasing environmental pressure, the Caribbean island of Saint Martin is fighting back. Several major projects are raising public awareness and remedying the most serious problems.
“The project should lead to greater awareness of the natural environment and more care being taken of the sites, greater awareness of the fauna and flora, and the development of ecotourism on St Martin.”
Marion Péguin, Association de gestion de la Réserve naturelle/Antenne du CDL
Work has started on three projects on sites of the France’s Conservatoire du Littoral (CDL) in the north-east of the island. It is part of a programme to improve the island’s environment in all areas owned by France’s Conservatoire du Littoral (CDL).
The island of Saint Martin is located north-west of Guadeloupe and is part of the EU. Its northern part belongs to France and is an ‘overseas collectivity’. The southern part, Sint Maarten, is part of the Netherlands Antilles.
Wetlands in particular are suffering due to new housing encroachment. These ecologically important yet fragile sites, plus other areas around the island, are also under increased pressure from tourism.
Under a project partly financed by the EU, three sub-projects are tackling some of the most challenging problems. Some of them are located in the nature reserve created in 1998, covering coastal and marine areas.
Between 2009 and 2010, teams of local people working under local experts and those from France’s CDL will clean up degraded areas, pollution and fly-tips. They will also reorganise road traffic and parking on the three sites and build paths and observatories. Some sites will also be replanted with protective and indigenous plants. Lastly, all sites will be developed to promote ecotourism and nature trails.
Benefiting nature and people
In the project 'Baie de Cul-de-Sac: Barrière lake', which covers some 25 000 m2, workers are building a path on stilts through the endangered mangroves. A large bird observatory and information panels are also under construction.
The ‘Pinel islet’ project includes construction of a near-circular path for walkers to admire fragile local habitats, beaches, corals and plants. Seagrape plants will also be planted on some beaches.
In the ‘Baie de l’embouchure’ project, the goal is to protect the whole bay and include it in its entirety in the existing nature reserve. This involves compulsory purchase of several old properties. Landscape development studies also aim to improve visitor facilities. Nearby, work at the Oyster Pond observatory site includes construction of a new observatory for people to admire the scenery.
All three sites will feature large information panels at their entrance. These will explain their environmental importance to local people and tourists.