The capacity of wetlands to protect us from flooding is often overlooked. Yet they are natural defences against extreme weather and climate-related threats.
Aerial view of the Sanctuary Photo Courtesy of Mike King Harman
Heavy rains that lashed Mahé the past few weeks have proven once again that Nature Seychelles' rehabilitation and maintenance of the Sanctuary at Roche Caiman, the only managed urban wetland in Seychelles, has helped with flood protection. Despite the unrelenting downpour, the wetland did not overflow. And neither did the road leading to the NGOs offices nor the surrounding areas.
Substantial financial investment and extensive work undertaken over the years have borne fruit for this once neglected space, transforming it from a wasteland into a thriving wetland. The work has included the removal of the invasive Typha grass, which clogged the marsh and was chocking the wetland, planting of native trees, sedges and shrubs in various locations on the site, and widening areas of open water.
Open pools to hold water during the rains were deepened, and outlets designed
Under a Mangroves for the Future project, pools to hold water during the rains were deepened, and outlets designed to slowly release the water, greatly improving the functioning of the wetland. Other work included the enhancement of the area under mangroves, themselves a useful and key coastal ecosystem, with over 500 hundred mangroves being planted on the site. Local and international volunteers such as schools, wildlife clubs, staff from local businesses, and naval officers from visiting ships have helped with maintenance work on the site. A plastic bottle boardwalk and bird observation area were installed, becoming a great showpiece for recycling. A perimeter fence to help prevent stray animals from entering the site was erected. Interpretive signage that told the history of the site and described the wildlife was put in and an activity centre constructed.
The Sanctuary is to date a popular spot for edutainment for visitors and locals. It is used for meetings and events, and for those seeking solace in a quiet place. In 2010, a suite of ‘nature-therapy’ activities including yoga and green exercise was introduced.
The site has won various awards such as the World Leisure Organisation Award for Innovation and the "Teach a Man to Fish" award for Seychelles for environmental education. In 2012, Nature Seychelles adopted the Health Parks Healthy People movement pioneered by Parks Victoria in Australia.
The long term vision for the Sanctuary, which is adjacent to the Stad Linite and opposite the Roche Caiman Housing Estate, is to have a place for wildlife where people can enjoy nature in safe and pleasant surroundings. “The Sanctuary belongs to the State, but we are running it without any funds. We really ought to be lauded for this worthy effort. Although it requires a lot of work and money, we are determined to maintain this green space to educate and as an essential ecosystem,” says Nature Seychelles Chief Executive Nirmal Shah.