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Nature destroys, nature restores

Monday, January 21 2013

click on pic to zoom in
SOLEMN DEDICATION: Archbishop Joseph Harris sits between Fr Reginald Hezekiah, left, and Fr Jeffery Supersad, at the Solemn Dedication of the Parish C...
SOLEMN DEDICATION: Archbishop Joseph Harris sits between Fr Reginald Hezekiah, left, and Fr Jeffery Supersad, at the Solemn Dedication of the Parish C...

Last July nature lovers were appalled when a large excavator was sent to Grande Riviere to straighten the river which was meandering along the beach and washing away the sand. In doing its work, the excavator was digging up thousands of unhatched turtle eggs. These were the eggs of the large Leatherback Turtles which are an endangered species, and which, due to excellent conservation volunteerism, had found a sanctuary on the sands of Grande Riviere.

Indeed the phenomenon of the huge turtles coming up on to the beach to dig the sand and lay their eggs, has brought a measure of fame to the tiny and remote village of Grande Riviere. Visitors come from around the world, and from all parts of our country to see the turtles laying their eggs, and later in the year to watch the thousands of tiny hatchlings clamber out of the sand and head out into the ocean. This spectacle has encouraged the construction of three small hotels in the village, plus the growth of guest houses and bed and breakfast homes. The turtles provide much of the economy of the community.

So while the outcry against the excavator straightening the river was understandable — and it resonated around the world, the action itself was misunderstood.

The river had changed its course and was moving westwards along the beach, washing away more sand each passing day. And as the sand was washed away, thousands of turtle eggs were also being swept out to sea. The village, the Turtle Trust and the hoteliers had asked the Government to do something before the start of the 2012 nesting season, but nothing was done. When the loss of beach became critical in July, the tractors were sent in, and before long the river mouth had been cleared of sand and the beach erosion had ceased. However, the sight of an excavator digging up unhatched eggs is far more traumatic than the river quietly washing them into the sea.

With the ensuing outcry, and blame being placed everywhere except where it really belonged, the works were never completed, and a large scar, in the form of a dirty pond, remained in the middle of the beach. The original problem was created by Mother Nature, who in any case cannot be “blamed”, because beach erosion and beach restoration is an ongoing coastal cycle, even on beaches which have no outflowing river to contribute to this cycle.

The village, naturalists and the hoteliers remained anxious as the February 2013 date anticipated for the arrival of turtles seeking to lay their eggs was fast approaching, and the “pond” remained in the middle of the beach. Despite several calls, the Environmental Management Authority (EMA), apparently given the mandate to find a solution, was not responding. But to their credit they claimed that they expected rough seas in January to bring sand in to fill the pond and to restore the beach.

Well, last week, Mother Nature responded to the EMA’s expectations, and to even the cynics delight. Large waves, sweeping in from the north hurled huge quantities of clean sand right up the beach for the length of the bay, and filled the unsightly pond with clean sand.

These waves were a mixed blessing, as they did some damage in Tobago and along Trinidad’s North Coast. They also swept through the dining room and kitchen of the Mount Plasir Hotel in Grande Riviere, but on balance the owner is happy to welcome the turtles which can now return to a beautifully restored beach. And all is well that ends well!

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