The total area of Suriname is about 164,000 km2. Compared to many other countries in the world, the population density is low and equals to about 3 inhabitants per km2 with a total population of about 540.0000. However, the largest part of this population, approximately 97%, lives in and around the Capital Paramaribo. The remaining 3% is spread over small towns in the coastal districts and in tribal communities along the rivers in the interior.
The coast of Paramaribo North has been degrading continuously over the last 30 years. This part of the coast belongs to the larger Suriname coastline, and, in turn, to the larger coastal area of the Guyana’s and the Guyana Shield. It is regarded as a wild coast, perpetually modified by the Amazonian water system and its corresponding sediment fluxes. Both products (water and sediments) travel, under influence of the North Brazilian Current, along the coastline of Suriname further into a western direction.
The admixture of freshwater with the Ocean water and the deposition of the sediment are the two important conditions for the mangrove forests to exist and grow: freshwater swamps, rivers and creeks, adjacent to the mangrove forests in the south support and enhance the growth of the mangrove forests.
Weg naar Zee (road to sea) is one of the 12 administrative areas of the Surinamese capital and district Paramaribo with a population of 16,069 inhabitants, an area endangered by the rising sea level and the subsequent loss of mangrove forests.
This area is well known as the “vegetable garden” of Paramaribo, but due to frequent inundation, resulting from dam breach and/or the overtopping of the dam during high waters, the productivity of the farmers in this area is significantly decreasing. In addition, a community of fisheries is found here, whose conditions are worsening due to the strong ongoing erosion.
There are also two important religious and cultural sites in this area: a pilgrimage site of Suriname’s Hindus (22,3 % of the population is Hindu) with its traditional cremation grounds. Both sites are dealing with an increasing amount of inundation incidents.
The upwelling due to the storm surges and heightened spring tide cause increasingly high damage tolls. This is especially so for all locations where the mangrove has been removed. The waves approach the coast with a minimum loss of energy, hitting hard on the shoreline.
Since the coast is comprised of fine sediments originated from the Amazon catchment area, a relatively weak disturbance in the hydrology (and the movements of sea water) may affect the unprotected soil at the shoreline. In the near future, if sustainable measures are lacking, these adverse developments will encroach further onto other areas as well, such as Paramaribo North.
Suriname is particularly vulnerable to the negative impacts of climate change due to its characteristic of low lying coastal zones. This area is Suriname’s most fertile land, where the majority of the economic activities take place and with the highest population concentration. The impact of sea level rise is therefore significant, and without the proper measures taken, it will eventually be catastrophic for the country.
The Mangrove Valley – Weg naar Zee proposes to formulate an integrated approach for the coastlines’ protection, its sustainable economic development and future environmental conservation through developing multi-stakeholder participatory mechanisms and a transsectoral approach based on public-private initiatives and partnerships. As such, Mangrove Valley – Weg naar Zee sets out to lay the groundwork towards developing a regional roadmap by which all aspects involving the gradual regeneration of the coastlines’ ecosystems are dovetailed with the prerequisites for the regions socio-economic development and to subsequently implement the required interventions.
The coast of Suriname has been classified as muddy because of the immense volumes of argillaceous muds, originating from the Amazon River, that are transported in suspension towards the coast where it gets deposited forming mud flats/banks. The mud banks move at an average rate of about 1.5 km per year in the western direction and accrete where they attach themselves, while other areas may suffer erosion or ridge formation. These characteristics are very compatible with the concept of "Building with Nature", protecting the coastline through inducing natural mechanisms as a sustainable solution.
Locally, a Sediment Trapping Unit (STU), also known as Kwelder in Dutch, is a technique that since April 2015 is being employed.
When constructed, the “wall” of the STU looks like a filter that filters the sediment out of the seawater during the ebb tide, when the water draws back into the sea. In this way, the erosion will be reversed into sediment deposition and mud bank formation can take place where ultimately mangrove juveniles can grow, naturally as well as artificially.
Bamboo breakwater STU’s are an effective way of coastal protection recreating floodplains and create favorable conditions for mangrove rehabilitation in erosion sites. In coastal engineering, the application of only one coastal protection element is technically difficult and cost intensive. A coastal protection system that combines different elements (e.g. managed floodplains with mangroves and a permeable dike) is much more efficient. In Vietnam (Soc Trang Province), 1.1 million USD for mangrove rehabilitation saved up to $ 7,3 million annually in the costs for dike maintenance.
To build sustainably with nature, downstream impacts of upstream activities and interventions need to be analyzed to be able to create and maintain the ideal conditions for a thriving mangrove ecosystem. Through a comprehensive survey of the upstream impacts on the coastal area, risks can be properly assessed in order to define, develop and execute the necessary interventions remediating those impacts. Preventing and minimizing the upstream risks will significantly contribute in fostering renewed growth of mangrove trees and the conservation of the coverage still standing.
Weg naar Zee is an area with a high potential for the development of the agricultural sector; it is already known as the ‘vegetable garden’ of Paramaribo.
At the coastline, soil salinity poses an increasing constraint for agricultural activity. The introduction of crops with a high tolerance for saline soils and groundwater is important to sufficiently diversify the range of crops that can be cultivated by the areas’ farming communities. A more robust resilience of the farming communities’ will ease the integration of their agricultural practices into a context of coastal regeneration and lasting protection.
The implementation of technologies that halt upstream, estuary and coastal erosion and remediate pollution can be well dovetailed with developing the agricultural sector. Versatile crops like Vetiver grass, native bamboo species and other semi-aquatic plants with a high salt tolerance, will help to develop economic opportunities as alternative and additional crops for the local communities to work with. Some of these crops can be used to desalinate ground- and irrigation water as well.
Together with local stakeholders, Weg naar Zee is well positioned for developing projects based on aquaculture.
Many types of coastal aquaculture can be practiced here, in or close to the mangrove area. The large part of this would have no or very limited adverse effects on the mangroves and could provide livelihoods to many rural families.
Similarly, aquaculture can be well combined with technologies and methodologies to both enhance and maintain the mangrove ecosystems’ biodiversity and with designing interventions that promote favorable flux- and sedimentary patterns, conducive to mangrove forest restoration, growth and maintenance.
Municipal Solid waste
Solid waste management in Suriname has not changed considerably over the past decades. Poor economic performance since the 1980’s has prevented the strengthening of a public sector that can adequately deal with utilities, including solid waste management.
At Weg naar Zee, in the direct vicinity of Surinames’ Hindu pilgrimage site, large amounts of garbage, bulky waste and other solid waste, including medical waste are dumped erratically. For the further development of the area resolving this state of affairs properly will be an important element in addressing the negative man-made impacts on its dwindling mangrove ecosystem. An appropriate system of MSW collection, sorting, re-use, recycling and processing can be developed, implemented and monitored to serve as a replicable methodology not only to prevent and reduce the negative impacts of uncontrolled MSW dumpsites at the Weg naar Zee coastal zone, but also to create jobs and business ventures, based on the MSW processing productive chain’.
This replicable method can subsequently be deployed in other areas of Paramaribo, Suriname and beyond, where similar problems threaten the coastal ecosystems.
In order to secure an integrated sustainability approach from the very outset we propose to divide the project into three project components with distinct areas of operation that connect opportunities for funding and collaboration.
Through a comprehensive survey and mapping of the current state of the mangrove ecosystems, including the upstream impacts thereon, a comprehensive approach is to remediate (and halt further) degradation.
Socio-economic Development & Economic Framework
Parallel to developing and implementing an integrated sustainability program for coastal protection, Mangrove Valley – Weg naar Zee is aimed at socio-economic development by means of an economic framework that can successfully include the local population and strengthen their resilience through economic and social prospects in the region.
An economic framework to that end is first and foremost geared towards strengthening those activities by the local community that are already promising and thriving and offer opportunities to expand upon those current economic activities that do not pose a threat to the mangrove ecosystem and/or render Ecosystem Services.
The larger Paramaribo district represents an even wider range of activities that could be tied in with an economic framework based on Payment for Ecosystem Services – PES. More often than not, integrated sustainability programs do not provide sufficient continuity for the mid- and long term with regard to ongoing project development and its financing. Once budgets out of non-refundable sources are exhausted, resulting in the lack of sufficient resources to successfully develop and implement such programs in its entirety, optimizing the possible balance between coastal protection and preservation on the one hand and sustainable economic development on the other.
Mangrove Valley - Centre of Excellence
Mangrove Valley, as an integrated and integrative project is to generate the programmatic context to ensure the mangrove ecosystems’ prolonged preservation and the sustainable socio-economic development of the Weg naar Zee area.
A suitable means to consolidate the continuity of Mangrove Valley this is through establishing a Field Lab Centre, for the coordination of the first cluster of pilot projects, managing also the accumulated experience and know-how as a result of that cluster: The Field Lab Centre gathers data and feedback from the field required for the overall project development and planning and oversees and monitors the project implementation. In a subsequent phase, the Field Lab Centre will culminate into the Mangrove Valley Centre of Excellence that serves as the hub through which the accumulated knowledge, expertise and skill can be further developed into replicable templates and training programs for the subsequent up-scaling and rollout of Mangrove Valley in, and adaptation to, other geographical regions and contexts.
The realization of a field lab and subsequent centre of excellence at Weg naar Zee is also of great importance in the valorization of the projects’ experiences and results into economic activities within a structured Payment of Ecosystem Services (PES – see below) framework so as to be able to guarantee the required and on-going funding for integrating local project-components and their maintenance into spatial and operational planning that can ensure the quality and integrity of the area’s ecosystems in the long run.
Weg naar Zee is easily accessible, close to Suriname’s capital and its international and airport.