Environment department records successes despite Covid-19 |31 December 2020
2020 has perhaps been the most turbulent year in the past decade with the Covid pandemic bringing about significant change in many departments in the country. The environment department was not spared from the ripple effects of the virus, but nevertheless it managed to accomplish many of its targets for this year.
- In March 2020, Seychelles designated 30% of its marine area as protected, tripling the UN Convention of Biological Diversity Target 11 for 10% marine protection by 2020, and the UN Sustainable Development Goal SDG-14 for 10% coastal and marine protection. The then Minister for Environment, Energy and Climate Change, Wallace Cosgrow, signed the Orders that will designate 30% of Seychelles’ Exclusive Economic Zone as Marine Protection Areas.
- The Annual seabird monitoring started in May and came to an end in August. Staff were deployed to Bird and Recif islands and a consultant was recruited by MEECC to ensure sustainable harvesting of sooty tern eggs on the islands of Bird and Cosmoledo, but also to collect data on different species of seabirds to establish trends/population.
- The International Biodiversity Week celebrated in May was a huge success. The theme was ‘Our solutions are in nature’ emphasising hope, solidarity and the importance of working together at all levels to build a future of life in harmony with nature. In light of Covid-19, all activities were organised on social media platforms/radio/Seychelles NATION etc.
- The Sharks and Rays Cabinet paper aimed at improving the conservation and management efforts of endangered sharks and rays in Seychelles waters was finally submitted to Cabinet in July and most of the recommendations were approved.
- The Annual Sea Turtle Monitoring by BCS staff started in late August whereby staff monitor key nesting beaches.
- In September the Biodiversity Conservation Section launched a call for volunteers for its annual sea turtle monitoring. This call was made due to continuous poaching activities on key nesting beaches. The volunteers assist with the monitoring especially at odd hours. BCS struggles with lack of staff to patrol the beaches hence hopes this initiative/programme will help with deterring poachers. 30 volunteers were successful for the programme.
- The Ocean scientific symposium showcased ocean-related projects and research that has been conducted or is ongoing in Seychelles and gave the opportunity for scientists’ research to be published in an upcoming edition of the Seychelles Research Journal. It highlighted the best research/projects and identified lessons learnt in the marine sector which will be of great importance to the Blue Economy, implementation of the Marine Spatial Planning and furthering the work of SeyCCAT’s Blue Grants Funds. The symposium also for the first time, presented the findings and outcomes from the first Seychelles-Nekton Deep sea expedition undertaken in 2019.
- The Annual Endangered Species Census started in November and will end in Jan 2021- Consultants were hired based on successful expression of interests received. Species being monitored are the Seychelles Scops Owl, Seychelles White Eye, Seychelles Kestrel, Seychelles Sheath Tailed Bat, Sea turtle ( La Digue)
- Throughout the year BCS has received/rescued/rehabilitated a number of species with the assistance from its partners, most of which were injured or disoriented sea birds. Other species include terrapins, giant tortoise and turtles.
Setting up of the Biodiversity Finance Unit (BFU)
The BFU became operational in 2020, with the employment of one staff. The BFU is a product of the UNDP BIOFIN Project, whereby Seychelles was part of the first phase of the project in 2013-2018.
The BFU was set up in order to institutionalise the coordination of all biodiversity-related projects and their mainstreaming into the economic planning and annual budgetary planning processes. To facilitate resource mobilisation for biodiversity projects. Furthermore, to coordinate the implementation of the Biodiversity Finance Plan. The BFU will build upon the Biodiversity Finance Plan (BFP) in identifying biodiversity Finance Solutions.
- The Lighting of Fire Restriction Act 2019 was assented to by the then President Danny Faure on December 26, 2019 and successfully put in operation during the first quarter of the year 2020. Compared to the previous Act which was covering mostly Praslin, this one makes provision to regulate the lighting of fire in the whole of Seychelles. This new Act also makes provision for an Authorised Officer of the Ministry of Environment, while enforcing the provisions of the Act 2019 to issue a fixed penalty notice on the spot. That is where an authorised officer finds a person committing an offence or has reason to believe that a person has committed an offence under subsection (1) or subsection (2), the authorised officer may issue a fixed penalty notice of R500 in the form set out in Schedule 3; and where a person commits the offence for a second or subsequent time, the fixed penalty shall be R1,500.
- Up to now (December 2020), 423 tree felling application requests in total were received from both private land owners and State Land (especially Seychelles National Park Authority). The requests for tree felling applications normally varies from request to fell and remove dangerous trees that are threatening properties to request for construction clearing and also harvesting of timber for personal use. But what we have noticed this year is that out of this 423 applications submitted to our office, almost 70% of them were requests made to fell and remove dangerous trees that were threatening private properties.
- A total of 141 burning applications were attended to.
- A total of 190 complaints received with regards to dangerous trees and were dealt with.
- 27 complaints from public regarding illegal burning
- What we have noticed this year is that due to our Section intensifying our monitoring activities with regard to illegal burning and illegal tree felling, there have been a very significant reduction in the number of illegal reporting activities received at our office.
- 67 cases regarding dangerous trees on state land were dealt with under budgets allocation to BCM on Mahé for the year 2020.
- Coco-de-mer nuts tagged for the two main producers the SNPA and the SIF = 615
- The National Forest Policy and Legislation Project – This is a 2 year project (2020 – 2021), which covers both the Forest Policy part and the Legislation part. The project which was launched early this year is been financed and supported by the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO). This year we are concentrating on the Forest Policy part and next year will be covering the Legislation part. The main aim of the project is to improve the human capacity and Institutional Framework and also strengthen the legal framework for forestry through development of a comprehensive forestry policy supported by a relevant legal framework.
- The Preparation and Implementation of the National Forest Inventory of Seychelles - This project is divided into two phases. Phase One was launched on April 21, 2018 for a period of 2 years (2018 – 2019) and Phase Two will be starting early next year (2012) for another 2 years (2021 2022). This project is also been financed and supported by the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO). The outcome of this project will allow for informed and evidence-based decision-making on forestry-related issues, using a landscape approach. This will be achieved through the following outputs: National capacity for implementing an integrated forest land and tree resources assessment established. National capacity on Geographical Information System (GIS) and Remote Sensing (RS) analysis for mapping and monitoring of forests strengthened. National capacity on field data collection and analysis developed (including biophysical and socio-economic aspects).
Waste, Enforcement and Permits Section
- We have received more than 2200 planning applications for assessment
- The Waste Masterplan has been finalised. The Waste Masterplan 2020-2035 sets out 4 main strategic actions to lead waste management in the country for the next 15 years.
- A risk assessment financed by World Bank entitled ‘Coastal Management Infrastructure in a Changing Climate’ was conducted.
- Total of 52 fixed penalties issued relating to unsecured load on vehicles.
- Works to review the EIA Regulation started and is being finalised.
Seychelles has officially become a member of the Plastic Waste Partnership under the Basel Convention. The partnership’s main objective is to improve and promote the environmentally sound management (ESM) of plastic waste at the global, regional and national levels and to prevent and minimise its generation. Seychelles hosted the first face to face meeting of the partnership in March.
The principal secretary for Environment noted that it was big challenge for the sector adapting to the ‘new normal’ due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
“Environmental NGOs working in conservation in particular have been hit very hard financially due to the loss of revenue and financing from tourism, nevertheless the department of Environment continued with its core functions of policy-making and reviewing of certain legislations,” he said
The PS continued by saying “In terms of highlights no doubt the biggest one for us was the 30% designation of our Exclusive Economic Zone as protected areas early this year, despite the uncertainties of 2021 we remain committed to the cause of environmental protection and management”.
The year ended with the appointment of Flavien Joubert as the new minister for Environment replacing Wallace Cosgrow.