The Exuma IWCAM Project

Sustainable development “meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.” – “Our Common Future” Brundtland Commission (1987)

As The Bahamas sets its course toward sustainable development, Great Exuma has been given a great opportunity to contribute to this goal by demonstrating a better approach to taking care of the coastal marine environment. Elizabeth Harbour, Exuma’s largest body of protected water and the most popular cruising destination in the country, has been chosen by the Global Environment Facility (GEF) to participate in the Integrating Watershed and Coastal Area Management (IWCAM) in Small Island Developing States (SIDS) project. The Bahamas is one of thirteen participating SIDS. Other participating countries include Antigua & Barbuda, Barbados, Cuba, Grenada, Dominica, Dominican Republic, Haiti, Jamaica, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent & the Grenadines, and Trinidad & Tobago. The IWCAM demonstration projects address the issues of diminishing freshwater supplies, degraded freshwater and coastal water quality, inappropriate land use, and hygiene and sanitation that are common problems in Caribbean SIDS. The Bahamas is very dependent on the health of its most valuable natural resource, the marine environment, as it supports vibrant tourism and fishing industries, and a good quality of life. The IWCAM project is providing funding to address one of the issues causing degraded coastal water quality in Exuma, a major threat to the area’s seagrass and coral reef ecosystems. It is hoped that the lessons learned here can set an example for other Caribbean nations that wish to ensure sustainable use of their marine resources for future generations.

In Exuma, a picture is indeed worth a thousand words. “People often have a difficult time describing the beauty of the waters here with so many hues of turquoise and blue.  We have to ensure that we sustain this beauty for years to come.” Charity Armbrister, Ministry of Tourism Director for the Central and Southern Bahamas explains.

“This project will maintain the cleanliness and beauty of our natural resources” adds Craig Parotti, Chairperson of the Elizabeth Harbour Management Partnership Steering Committee, the group that was formed locally to implement Exuma IWCAM project. The Steering Committee includes representatives from The Bahamas Water and Sewerage Corporation, the Department of Environmental Health Services, the Ministry of Tourism, the Port Authority, and Local Government as well as members of the general public and business community on the island. Their goal: to improve the water quality of Elizabeth Harbour through the installation of new facilities for the yachting community, including pumpout services, a new wastewater treatment facility to handle vessel waste, and moorings. The Bahamas Environment Science and Technology (BEST) Commission is handling project implementation matters in Nassau. IWCAM Project Coordinator for BEST, Sherlin Brown “is pleased that the Committee is working closely with us to complete the project in June.”

Patterson Smith has taken initiative in starting Elizabeth Harbour’s first mobile pumpout service. “I was operating the water taxi in 1995 and 1996 and I saw the need for it then with the amount of boats out there…I said I’ll try to get out there and get it done when the opportunity presents itself. I’ve been thinking about this for a long time.” Right away, he realized the problem of not yet having a proper disposal facility on the island. He contacted Sandals Resort at Emerald Bay to ask for their assistance and now, this key partnership with Sandals has helped the project get off to a good start and provides a perfect example of how partnerships like this are critical for the success of integrated resource management efforts. Mr. Teddy Clarke, Exuma’s Chief Councilor is thrilled with the partnership and the project. “This is exactly what we needed and at the right time.”

“The Elizabeth Harbour Management Partnership is looking at other upgrades to Elizabeth Harbour that it can work toward in the future,” said Mr. Parotti of other measures the committee is considering to improve the harbour such as better aids to navigation and the need for properly dredged channels for bigger vessels. For now, they are appreciative of the assistance they’ve received from the GEF and the support they are getting from Exumians and visitors alike. Together, with the support of the community, they hope to guide the sustainable development of Elizabeth Harbour to ensure her beautiful waters will impress many, many more people for a very long time.

More information about the IWCAM Project can be found at