Grand Police Bay nominated ‘Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty’ | 10 July 2019
The Ministry of Environment, Energy and Climate Change (MEECC) in partnership with the Marine Conservation Society Seychelles (MCSS) will be hosting a public meeting on the nomination of Grand Police as ‘An Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty’.
The meeting will take place at the Takamaka community centre on Saturday July 13.
The meeting aims to present the findings and content of the nomination file to the public, an idea of the proposed project outline to manage the area, and to gather comments and feedback to be included in the nomination file to be presented to the cabinet of ministers by MEECC.
Grand Police is the largest and last remaining intact wetland on Mahé island. While there are larger wetlands, the majority have some sort of infrastructure such as access roads through them.
According to Rabia Somers, project leader for the Grand Police protected area project at MCSS, it is imperative that the area remain protected as wetlands are highly productive and biologically diverse systems that enhance water quality, control erosion, maintain stream flows, sequester carbon, and provide a home to threatened and endangered species.
“An estimated 90 percent of wetlands on Mahé have been lost to infrastructure development, so we only have 10 percent left. Wetlands are among, if not are, the most-critically threatened habitat-type in the inner islands.
“The wetland itself has many species including terrapins, such as a yellow-bellied terrapins as well as birds. In terms of plants also, we found quite a few species such as lalyann zasmen and the species that are there are pretty much restricted geographically to that area,” Ms Somers noted.
The Grand Police Protected Area project started and gained speed in 2017 when the public and a group of citizens, the Grand Police Citizens Initiative Association, campaigned and petitioned against the construction of the hotel and for parcel T575 to be returned to the government and declared a protected area. In June 2017 the cabinet of ministers approved to keep the area protected.
MCSS conducted a 12-month biodiversity assessment of the wetlands in the area in 2017 and concluded that Grand Police is considered an international key biodiversity area (KBA). After the findings were presented to MEECC in May 2017, MCSS secured funding for another 12 month biodiversity assessment to cover the whole area inclusive of the mountain and forest, the findings of which have been compiled into a nomination file, nominating the area for protected status. The file was submitted to MEECC in March this year, and is expected to be tabled before the Cabinet of Ministers for approval in the near future.
As well as the findings of the second biodiversity assessment, the nomination file also comprises management and business plans for the area.
“We actually get quite a lot of visitors in the area and surprisingly a lot of tourists visit the beach even though the currents are really strong. I guess what attracts tourists is the fact that it is secluded and wild. The idea is that once the area is protected, we will be able to manage the visitor access and we want to encourage people to visit the area and to use it recreationally or for educational and research purposes but we want to be able to manage the area to have as low a human impact on the environment as possible,” Ms Somers noted.
Having worked in the area extensively over the past couple of years, MCSS hopes to be able to contribute to the management of the area. Under the new legislation pertaining to reserves and protected areas, the Nature Reserve and Conservancy Bill, it is a requirement for protected areas to be co-managed, a requirement that has been foreseen and provided for by MCSS.
“We will protect the beach when we know that turtles are nesting. Turtle poaching has been a concern in the area because of its remote location and there is nobody really manning the area so we would hope to better manage those things,” Ms Somers remarked excitedly.
In a bid to keep the impact on the environment as low as possible, infrastructure such as toilet facilities will be housed in renovated building structures already on the site including the former prison building and smaller surrounding buildings, located not too close to the beach and sensitive areas.
“Grand Police is a perfect opportunity to try and protect one of the last remaining naturally-intact eco-system that we have on Mahé. Most of the population is on Mahé so most of the development is on Mahé so there is very little left. We hope to try and preserve whatever we have left,” Ms Somers asserted.
For more information on the nomination file, the public can assist the public consultation. This will also be an opportunity to voice their opinions on the matter.