Our wetlands – a business unusual-‘All streams run to the sea, but the sea is not full’


Reminiscence of our past World Wetlands Day 2002

d“All streams run to the sea, but the sea is not full; to the place where the streams flow, there they flow again” – Biblical quote

The wetlands of Seychelles, although smaller than most, have very essential functions. The vast stretches of catchment areas like Morne Seychellois, Morne Sebert, Congo Rouge and the hundreds of winding rivers and streams serve a great role in providing our homes with water. Hundreds of our indigenous flora and fauna thrive in these sparkling waters.

Anse Boileau wetlands restoration

With these vital functions in mind, the Wetlands Unit was shaped in 2000, as a branch within the department of the environment. Ever since its introduction, the unit has been striving towards its aim of protecting, conserving and managing the precious wetlands and rivers all over the Seychelles islands.

In 2004, to achieve its goals and to strengthen its efforts in the wetland conservation, Environment and Energy Minister Prof Rolph Payet backed by the support of western Indian Ocean region chapter of the World Wildlife Fund succeeded in making Seychelles a part of the Ramsar Convention.

Left uncontrolled, water lilies become an invasive weed as this picture of the Valmer Wetlands at Baie Lazare shows

Seychelles had declared three Ramsar sites of wetlands of international  importance: Port Launay -Port Glaud Mangrove sites, Mare Aux Cochons  wetlands – a high altitude fresh water wetlands in the National Parks of Morne Seychellois – and the third, Aldabra Atoll – which also happens to be a United Nations Educational and Cultural Organisation world heritage site.  All three sites, teeming to the brim with a rich ecosystem, play significant roles and deserve their status as wetlands of international importance.

A river the Mare Aux Cochons wetlands. It supplies water to the Public Utilities Corporation at Port Glaud

2013 is the United Nation’s International Year of Water Cooperation, an occasion for all of us to look at the water challenges facing the world and some possible solutions. It is a fine opportunity for the Ramsar family to reinforce the understanding of the critical link between wetlands and water: without wetlands there will be no water – and without water there will be no wetlands.

oui la grande maison est pleineThis year members of Ramsar have joined hands with UNESCO’s International Hydrological Programme in preparing our illustrated brochure that takes readers through a broad look at wetlands and water. It is well recognized that access to a clean and adequate water supply is critical for human survival. Less well understood is that wetlands, as defined by Ramsar, are fundamental regulators of water regimes. Without adequate management of wetlands from the mountains to the sea there is no water of the right quality and quantity where and when it is needed.

Our World Wetlands Day (WWD) focus this year gave us the chance for all of us working for wetlands to convince those who manage water that wetlands are not competitors for water but rather they are essential components of water infrastructure, providing a clean source and store of freshwater.

The section contracts out the works for cleaning and maintenance wetlands and rivers and restoration through the public tender process.

To facilitate this process, wetlands and rivers of Mahe, Praslin and La Digue have been grouped under different zones. Mahe has North, South, East, West and Central zones and Praslin has Baie Ste Anne and Grand Anse zones, and La Digue is a zone on its own.

Contractors do a monthly clean-up of all the identified rivers and wetlands to remove all debris, litter, dead wildlife and invasive plant-life. The monitoring and evaluation of the works are undertaken by the section’s inspectorate and staff together with the relevant district administration and the contractor in charge. All works are assigned through National Tender Board’s open tender process.

Through annual plans, the section prioritises the key wetlands and river sites for flood mitigation and restoration activities and funnel necessary funding from the annual budget allocation to the ministry.

Some of the  restoration works completed in the past and currently being carried out are:  Storm water channel de-silting in and around Victoria, flood mitigation works at Anse Boileau, addressing the marsh outflow and flooding at La Retraite, Majoie and North East Point, Anse aux Pins, Grand Anse marsh channels on Mahe, La Point and Anse La Blague on Praslin.

Alliance Française channel restoration

The section collaborates with other non-governmental organizations (NGO) like the S4S on wetlands management plans and terrapins conservation. Some of the fundamental partners are Ephelia Resorts, Le Meridien Barbarons, Banyan Tree Hotel, La Reserve, Labriz Hotel, Four Seasons, Kempinski, all of whom have good contacts with the unit for their wetlands management plan and conservation.

Controlling invasive water-weeds spread is one of the major tasks of the unit. In several areas of Praslin and La Digue the weed-spread has been restricted. However, on Mahe in some places like North East Point and Valmer Wetlands, weeds pose a continuous problem. NGOs and voluntary organisations such as the Seychelles Scouts are involved in adopting sites and in the wetland management activities.

The unit becomes very active during extreme weather conditions. Partnered with other sections such as the Divisions of Risk and Disaster Managemen address the people in distress and advocate mitigating measures.

For the conservation and restoration of our wetlands, rivers and for flood mitigation activities – through the environment department – the Government of Seychelles spends between R3 million and R4 million per year. Many parts of Mahe, Praslin and La Digue have benefitted  from it.

Pristine wetlands…

Seychelles’ wetlands feature in the global wetlands list. Our first site, Port Glaud has been included as one of the most interesting sites in the Ramsar & United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) publication of Destination wetlands guide book among 14 other pristine wetlands all around the 162 member countries of the Ramsar Convention. Something that makes our hearts swell with pride.

Our world heritage site, the Aldabra atoll, has been included for its achievement in sustainable power generation from the solar. Wetlands feature in Ramsar – Green Africa  

Seychelles has for the last 12 years been successful in implementating the wetlands conservation and protection.

We wish to conclude with a quote from former secretary general of the United Nations Kofi Annan: “Contrary to popular belief, we do not face a choice between economy and ecology.

It is often said that protecting the environment would constrain or even undermine economic growth. In fact, the opposite is true: unless we protect resources and the earth’s natural capital, we shall not be able to sustain economic growth.”

 During a mangrove planting exercise by students of the French School

This is true in the perspective of Seychelles wetlands conservation and protection.
 So please join and help us to raise awareness about the critical role of wetlands in water management.