BASSETERRE, St. Kitts – PROTECTING the Basseterre Valley Aquifer has been a primary objective of the Water Services Department and much progress has been made to develop a water resource and national park management plan for the protected area.
The project is being funded by the Global Environmental Facility (GEF) through collaboration with Integrating Watershed and Coastal Area Management (IWCM).
It is expected to transform some 525 acres of land, bounded by Olivees Mountain to the southwest, Canada Hills to the northeast and Conaree Hills to the east, into a national park. Most of the area is located between the Kim Collins Highway, Frigate Bay Road and the Conaree Hills.
Project Manager Ian Liburd said he is optimistic that the project would rehabilitate and manage the Basseterre Valley as a protection measure for the underlying aquifer. He anticipates the project would serve as an example for the management of protected areas and would guide water resource management on the island.
“Under the Memorandum of Agreement between the United Nations Office for Project Services, UNDP is financing this project up to an amount of US$530 000, with co-financing coming from government revenue in the amount of US$217 000 and an in-kind contribution of some US$22 million on the part of the government of St. Kitts and Nevis,” Liburd informed.
Every day, the Basseterre Valley produces approximately 2.5 million gallons of water, which is about 60% of the island’s total water consumption. However, water levels in the aquifer have declined since 1999 as groundwater withdrawals have increased and additional elements threaten the quality of the underlying water.
Ocean Earth Technologies Consortium (OET) was therefore contracted to undertake a hydro-geological survey in 2008 and, according to Manager and Engineer at the Water Services Department Cromwell Williams, this move was necessary to ensure the safety and sustainability of this natural resource, in both quantity and quality.
“Quantity in the sense that there is a safe yield to how much we can take out at a time. Quality in that we just have to be mindful of what we allow to go into the ground since over time, chemicals can get into the ground water and pollute it.
“The main culprits are agricultural fertilizers and pesticides, sewage from our households and petrochemicals and other non-biodegradable substances,” Williams said at a press conference held yesterday (Mar. 15).
Phase One of the project involves a scientific assessment of the area and Phase Two involves converting the area into a national park. Plans for the area, as prepared by Aukerman, Haas and Associates, consist of walking and bike trails, a demonstration water feature, fairgrounds and exhibits, a football field and parking.
The site plan also includes a 100x100 yard botanical plaza, visitor centre and amphitheatre with a central water foundation and spray park, providing spacious, open areas and shaded seating. An observation deck and tea house and restaurant are expected to finish the feature of the St. Kitts National Capitol Park.
Dr. Glenn Haas, Professor at Colorado State University, informed that initial stakeholder meetings guided his company in ascertaining the assets and attractions the surrounding communities would want in a national park. The plan put forward illustrates not only the natural resources of the country, according to Haas, but also captures the cultural and historical elements.
“We have tried to be very inclusive in building a park that would meet the needs of the local folks. What we are proposing is that the sugar cane [field] that is there now, that whole area will be restored and reclaimed into some natural, native landscape,” he added.
Dr. Haas informed that water and the protection of aquifers would be a theme that will form the cornerstone of education at the National Capitol Park. The consultancy company also recommended legislation to adopt such and similar parks, protecting terrestrial and marine areas, and a conservation trust to save funds generated from parks and protected areas.