Canadian Alleges Treaty Violations by Barbados

A complaint filed by the Canadian owner of Graeme Hall Nature Sanctuary, an eco-tourist facility in Barbados, alleges that the Government of Barbados has violated its international obligations by refusing to enforce its environmental laws, thereby allowing increased pollution and land development to damage the Sanctuary.

Notice of the dispute was given to Barbados in accordance with the Agreement For The Promotion and Reciprocal Protection of Investments between Canada and Barbados.

The complaint alleges that Barbados has consistently refused to enforce its domestic environmental laws and to abide by its international obligations under the Convention on Wetlands and Convention on Biological Diversity.  This has led to a radical escalation of polluted runoff into the Graeme Hall wetland that serves as a Caribbean flyway stop for migratory birds between North and South America.   The Sanctuary is located entirely within the wetland, is home to  some of the heaviest concentrations of biodiversity on the island, and has been a major environmental education center for children, adults and visitors.

Increasing fish and crab kills have been observed in recent years in the wetland along with unpredictable water levels and toxic algae blooms allegedly caused by years of government-run sluice gate and pollution mismanagement, dumping of raw sewage by the South Coast Sewage Treatment Plant, and other factors.  

According to Peter Allard, chairman and shareholder of the Graeme Hall Nature Sanctuary, over $35 million (US) has been invested in the 35-acre Sanctuary to preserve the last significant mangrove woodland and wetland on the island.  The Sanctuary is within the last 240-acre green space on the island's South Coast between the Airport and the capital of Bridgetown, and is also part of the Ramsar wetland recognized by the Convention on Wetlands of International Importance.  

In 2008 Barbados formally reversed the original protective land use policies embodied in the 1988 National Physical Development Plan that showed environmental buffers and low-impact recreational lands around the Sanctuary investment and the wetland.  

New zoning for the area calls for commercial and residential development for the majority of the 240-acre green space at Graeme Hall, despite a 6,000 signature petition by citizens of Barbados to create a national park.