Basseterre, St. Kitts, February 26, 2019 (SKNIS): The Department of Environment launched the Global Environment Facility (GEF) funded Integrating Water, Land and Ecosystem Management in Caribbean Small Island Developing States (GEF IWEco) demonstration project, today, February 26, at the Ocean Terrace Inn with the goal of reducing and reversing land degradation in the Federation of St. Kitts and Nevis.

The project entitled, “Addressing Impacts of Acute Land Degradation in the College Street Ghaut in St. Kitts and Quarries and Sand Mining Hotspots on Nevis” will aid to strengthen the institutional capacity, improve policy framework and facilitate pilot projects within the College Street Ghaut watershed in St. Kitts and key quarry sites and nearby wetlands and coral reefs in Nevis that are earmarked for rehabilitation.

“Land degradation issues have traditionally taken somewhat of a back seat to the other urgent environmental issues. We are ever cognisant though of the dangers of constantly pushing aside the important to deal with the urgent,” said Head of the Department of Environment and Senior Environment Officer, June Hughes.

She stated that the department is pleased to have the GEF funding this very important initiative in the Federation and “heartened to the fact that the GEF has chosen to prioritise land degradation by funding this critical project.”

“Degraded ecosystems result in the loss of biodiversity which is so critical to our ultimate existence, and failure to implement early intervention measures to mitigate against this particular threat, especially within the context of a small island state can ultimately lead to economic failure,” she said.

She explained that land degradation has many route causes, some human induced and others natural, which can negatively affect the “ability of the land to effectively function within an ecosystem.” She also said that this can threaten food security as well as land stability.

“We therefore welcome with open arms this opportunity to work on some of our land management issues. This project will afford us the chance to learn new techniques and methodologies to solve some of our degradation problems. I would implore us to replicate wherever possible the outputs of each component on both islands,” she said.

The five year multi-focal regional project has a total of 10 participating countries and is headed by UN Environment. UN Environment CAR/RCU and the Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA) will serve as co-executing agencies.