Environment and National Beautification minister Adrian Forde drew a parallel between illegal dumping at sea and the heavy use of pesticides in fields across Barbados.
Addressing the launch of the Barbados International Coastal Clean-up hosted by the Caribbean Youth Environment Network, Forde drew linkages between the influx of sargassum seaweed on the island’s south and east coasts, and illegal dumping and the use of chemicals.
The minister told the audience that sargassum seaweed must be regarded as the “perennial grinch” that came every year, not only as a result of increased temperatures because of climate change, but because of the “anthropogenic behaviours of our people”.
“That is the bottom line,” he said. “When we are having our oceans being loaded with nutrients, nitrates, and phosphates, and all the other harmful chemicals because of illegal dumping, and because of indiscriminate disposal of garbage, which is strewn across our beaches, and our gullies and our land space or the lithosphere….
“When this happens it ends up at the beach; it ends up in the sea; it causes the sea to be overloaded with nutrients; it causes a wide oasis for sargassum to proliferate, and when it proliferates in the ocean, it comes to our beaches in numbers and it becomes a perennial problem.”
Forde said studies have shown that sargassum had higher than accepted levels of arsenic, mercury, cadmium, and other heavy metals, which are harmful to consumption.
The minister said that sargassum had the ability to sequester carbon dioxide and reduce ocean acidity, thereby removing harmful chemicals from the sea.
“The writing was on the wall,” he said, noting that it is clear that these harmful chemicals made their way into the ocean because of pollution
“That is why…it is a call on Barbadians to put brakes on this whole unfortunate trend of illegal dumping. Apply handbrakes immediately because it redounds to the destruction of your life…our marine life, our life on land, our life in the air. We have to do better as a country.”
Forde said the government was on the “cusp” of the start of the first ever debt for nature swap, which will allow Barbados, through the nature conservancy and international agencies, to put money into preserving its maritime environment through spatial planning.