Keen care of nature helps widen reserves


17-May-2013

Other efforts have helped remove rare fauna and flora from the endangered species’ list.

The Minister for Environment and Energy Professor Rolph Payet said this yesterday when we asked him if as the minister with the conservation portfolio he is satisfied enough is being done to protect vital areas.

He said government has carefully studied and identified what areas may be allowed for specific kinds of development so decisions are not taken in an ad hoc manner “just because a developer happens to be interested in a particular area”.

“In fact there are cases where under the closer scrutiny of the Environment Impact Assessment process certain projects do not get our go-ahead and decisions are reversed especially after wide consultations,” he said.

Prof Payet gave examples where areas designated for certain developments have suddenly become unavailable following settlement of unique species not present when the strategic plans were drafted.
An area in Port Launay for example has been left for newly settled flocks of the unique Sousouri bannann – the Sheath tailed bat which feeds only on insects.

He said many people previously did not appreciate the value of wetlands until we came up with a policy to protect these vital ground in 2005, but since then many marshes have been improved for example by removing alien plants species.

Many wetlands had been abandoned and invasive species overgrew on them.
Prof Payet said there are different models of conservation which include the Total protection, the kind Morne Seychellois enjoys “where you cannot build anything, or protection where there are limited activities while there is the third type of development which can co-exist with conservation.”

“If for example only the government was taking part in conservation on Frégate Island we would use a lot of the tax payers’ money”.

“When we combine with the private sector model as in the case of Frégate Island – which finances the activities of the Magpie robins protection which have increased in number after the removal of all invasive species, making the island a good example of what we want in Seychelles.

“It is not true to say that development of hotels will destroy the environment,” he said, adding most of the degradation that happened took place in the past where trees were cut to build houses or make boats but a lot of rehabilitation is happening and will continue to happen.

He gave the example of the airport which is built on land reclaimed from the sea at the cost of losing some coral reefs, but without the airport we would not have tourism as a major industry.

“I can take the position as environment minister and block all the development but we need people to get jobs and otherwise development would stagnate,” he said.

“My role is to see that such developments do not have major impacts on the environment, preventing where we can prevent and where we cannot avoid we look at mitigating action.

“The Ministry of Environment and Energy is not there to say No to everything. There are things we say No to and other situations where we work with developers to ensure no harm comes to habitats and conservation.

“We use the data we have on mangroves, turtles etc to make the best decisions we can.”

“Where there are threatened species the government has always stood by its decision to ensure they do not become extinct.

“The credibility of Seychelles as an environmentally conscious nation is quite intact. The world recognises our efforts but also knows we cannot afford to do certain things that are done in some countries,” said Prof Payet.

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