The Turks and Caicos Islands on February 2nd, 2019, will join the rest of the world in commemorating World Wetlands Day. Local conservation management agencies, the Turks and Caicos National Trust (TCNT) and the Department of Environment and Coastal Resources (DECR), will be spearheading activities under the theme ‘Wetlands and Climate Change’ (we invite the public to follow our Facebook page, and website to learn more about the activities). A very significant highlight for wetlands conservation this year is the launch of a very prestigious project that will focus on wetlands in Providenciales.

The UK Government’s Darwin Plus initiative funding agency has just announced funding for 17 conservation projects worth more than £3.5 million in the UK Overseas Territories to deliver commitments in a 25 Year Environment Plan.

Of these 17 projects, the Turks and Caicos Islands along with two other Caribbean UK Overseas Territories, Anguilla and Montserrat will benefit from one cross territory project to protect four wetland sites. The Turks and Caicos component of the project will focus on the Wheeland Ponds in Providenciales. Local conservation partners have identified the Wheeland Ponds as a critical ecological site and have organized annual World Wetlands Day activities around the ponds for the past five years.

The project is timely in that the Office of the Premier recently launched the country’s Climate Change Initiative with the completion of the territory’s first climate change policy. The wetlands project also fits squarely within the remit of the Trust and the organization’s heritage protection and sustainable development goals for 2019.

Caribbean wetlands are very important ecological sites. They provide habitat for birds, nursery for juvenile fish, and other services such as protection from flooding and storm surges. Yet our wetlands face threats. Threats from illegal dumping, excavation and backfilling. These unhealthy activities contribute to the destruction and degradation of wetlands.

The National Trust is indeed elated to participate in such an esteemed project which is intended to raise the level of awareness towards the ecological services provided by our wetlands, develop management plans, implement action plans to restore wetlands and enhance terrestrial boundaries by installing informative signage. Other outputs from the project are; to sensitize and mobilize communities neighboring wetlands to become involved in wise management of such ecosystems and reap the benefits of sustainable management of wetlands in the Turks and Caicos Islands with off shoots of entrepreneurial initiatives.

The wetlands project is indeed an opportunity for citizens and residents of the Turks and Caicos to learn more about this particular ecosystem and appreciate the wonderful natural world of the Turks and Caicos Islands.