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New project to save aquatic habitats and biodiversity |20 September 2023

New project to save aquatic habitats and biodiversity

Dr Henriette addressing the audience

An innovative project has been launched with the aim of studying and preserving the diverse aquatic ecosystems and the denizens found within the river habitat.

Funded by the JRS Biodiversity Foundation with over $260,000, the JRS River Project is led by Gaea Seychelles.
During the launch ceremony held yesterday morning at the Seychelles Institute of Teacher Education, Dr Elvina Henriette from Gaea Seychelles detailed the objectives of the project. Beyond studying the river's animal inhabitants, the project aims to monitor potential changes in their populations over time.

"We have chosen 15 rivers as our initial focus. Annually, we will conduct monitoring to assess any alterations occurring in these river ecosystems,” Dr Henriette explained.

However, Dr Henriette emphasised that the project's scope extends beyond wildlife observation. It will also investigate various facets of river usage, including how people interact with and utilise these vital water sources.

Additionally, the project will assess the extent to which individuals understand the rivers' importance in benefiting the local population.

“Things like lemonade manufacturing, cooking food and the likes, are different instances where we have used the river water in our lives every day,” she observed.

Dr Henriette highlighted the NGO's broader objective of incorporating the human and social elements into the interaction between people and rivers.

She emphasised their commitment to integrating the cultural dimension as well. In the past, communities had a particular way of coexisting with rivers, demonstrating a deep respect for these vital water bodies. People used the upper reaches of the river for drinking water, the middle sections for washing clothes, and the lower portions for bathing.

“I think we have lost a lot of that respect because nowadays we use mostly the river as a place for us to throw our trash in, without realising that what we are drinking is what is keeping us alive,” she said.

Through this project, Gaea will interact a lot with people of the community where they will host educational programmes to sensitise people on the importance of rivers.

She mentioned that this will be done in a variety of ways, citing a play that took place earlier in the ceremony.

“A play is a tool that we can use to pass information and through the play, the people have learnt more about the river, in what way they can use the river in the long term.”

With the data that are collected, Dr Henriette explained that it will be inserted inside a database where they can analyse it and look at how the aquatic animals are evolving overtime or if there is a certain reduction in the population and what the impact this will have.

“The information itself will be able to tell you what conservation actions to take.”

She remarked that among the 15 rivers which they are focusing on, there is a reduction in certain aquatic species whereby some that were more prominent, such as prawns and tadpoles, is important to show that a river is clean.

“If you see that there are species disappearing than it gives you an indication that there is a certain factor that is impacting on them negatively.

“So now we can go do a thorough investigation to find out what the issue is and the relevant departments can take the necessary actions to make sure that the impact is mitigated.”

It can also be used to put in place new policies and laws to preserve the rivers.

On a scientific level, there will be article publications so that the information can be shared within the scientific community. There is also the possibility that during these investigations, new species can be discovered.

Despite the budget, Dr Henriette concluded that there will be certain elements where they will need more money and so Gaea Seychelles is reaching out through other options.

The ceremony was also highlighted by a Q&A session as well as a play and song by Gaea Little Explorers along with a dance performance to wrap up the event.

The accompanying photos show some highlights of the launch ceremony.


Sunny Esparon

Photos by Joena Meme

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