By Hope A. Sealey, president, Rotary Club of East Nassau, Nassau, Bahamas. Photos by Alyce Henson, Rotary International.
Storm damage and coastline erosion are threatening many shores around the world, especially islands in the Caribbean. On top of these concerns, climate challenges are vastly affecting the natural ecosystems of these islands. And the island of New Providence, Bahamas, is no exception.
Bonefish Pond National Park, which was established in 2002, has one of the last remaining mangrove systems on New Providence island. During the time of its establishment, part of the park was a dumping ground but the Bahamas National Trust (BNT) – a non-profit organization that manages the country’s national parks – has been working ever since to clean up the park and turn it into a thriving mangrove area.
Some people might ask, why mangrove trees?
They play a crucial role in maintaining a healthy environment for small fish and crawfish, as well as protecting the island from storm damage and coastline erosion. But the mangrove population has declined and been destroyed by development all over the world – causing alarm for those of us who recognize the massive benefits these trees provide for our habitats.
Nevertheless, BNT’s effort to boost the mangrove population on the island has not been in vain.
In December 2017, our club (the Rotary Club of East Nassau), along with Nassau Sunrise, Southeast Nassau, West Nassau, and the Rotaract Club of East Nassau, joined forces to help plant mangrove propagules (or seedlings) donated by Atlantis and the Leon Native Plant Preserve.
The main objective of this initiative is to preserve the environment for future generations and more importantly, to prepare our communities for the effects of climate change. As climate change happens, the result is that tide levels will rise and low lying countries, such as the Bahamas, will suffer.
Our volunteer and partner support to Bonefish Pond National Park’s climate resiliency initiative will be an ongoing project for Rotary members, both local and from afar. In fact, an even larger collaborative project just took place here on 7 April to support this initiative. We had over 200 Rotarians visiting on a cruise to help participate in RI President-elect Barry Rassin Community Service Day, which addressed eight service projects in one day. This gave us an additional 45 Rotarians to help clean up and plant seedlings at the mangroves site. We also had Rotaractors involved to help with hands-on work at the site.
By conserving the mangrove system in the park, we’re hopeful this project will serve the habitat and people of New Providence well for future generations, as well as set an example of how other coastal communities can protect their own shorelines.