PALAU, Lake Ngardok, Melekeok State - January 2007
Construction of a solar-powered, eco-friendly visitor and education center in support of the 1,236-acre Lake Ngardok Nature Reserve in perpetuity
The Lake Ngardok Nature Reserve is located in Melekeok State on the east side of Babeldaob. It contains the largest freshwater lake in Micronesia and is an important habitat for the endangered Palau gray duck, Micronesian pigeon, Mariana fruit bat and saltwater crocodile. The lake provides the water supply for the state of Melekeok. The reserve includes the entire upland watershed of the Ngardorech River, one of Babeldaob’s five major river systems. The ecological significance of Lake Ngardok is now internationally recognized through designation under the Ramsar Convention as a Wetland of International Significance. With the assistance of the Palau Conservation Society (PCS), Seacology is funding the construction of a solar-powered, eco-friendly visitor and educational center to ameliorate potential effects of increased visitor traffic through the reserve in recognition of the conservation of the Lake Ngardok Nature Reserve in perpetuity.
UPDATE March 2007 - Purchase and transportation of materials, finalizing the design of the center, and construction is scheduled for March through July 2007. Plans for August through December 2007 include completing the installation of the solar power system, septic system and opening ceremony.
UPDATE July 2007 - After her site visits in Micronesia, Seacology Senior Program Officer Karen Peterson reports that the site for the new solar-powered visitors’ center has been selected. According to PCS director Tiare Holme, construction has been held up by the permitting process, but the permits have finally come through and construction is scheduled to begin within a month. The trailwork is very nicely done, with recycled plastic decking in wet spots and also used for a dock extending into the lake.
UPDATE December 2007 - The site for the center has been selected but construction was delayed until October 2007 by the permitting process. All permits were granted in October and PCS is ready to begin purchasing materials and finalizing plans to begin construction.
UPDATE January 2009 - Construction began in April 2008. As of November 2008 construction continued, but project leaders anticipated that the building would be complete by the end of 2008. The reserve remains under active protection.
UPDATE June 2009 - A soft opening for the Visitor's Center was held on February 1 2009, to coincide with World Wetlands Day (Feb 2). In attendance were more than 60 people, including state and traditional leaders, community members, local school children, businesses, national government representatives and PCS staff. People viewed the center, went on a tour of the Reserve and participated in awareness raising events (for instance, there was an essay contest for the school children). The Center is almost complete, but is still awaiting solar panels and bathroom fixtures. There has been a slight delay in procuring these items, but it is anticipated that they will be in place by the official opening of the center, which is scheduled for Palau Conservation Day (June 14). The reserve remains under active protection.
UPDATE November 2009 - As of November 2009 field representative Simon Ellis reports that PCS staff have been trying to get solar panels for the visitor's center donated through the Palau Energy Office. They recently found out that the energy office will not be able to make any such donation, but they are fairly certain that he will be able to identify other sources for such a donation. Thus, they will spend the remaining funds on fixtures for the center and hope to have items purchased by the end of 2009.
UPDATE May 2010 - As of May 2010 PCS reports that all Seacology funds have been spent to date. Three buildings were constructed as part of this project. One building is a nursery, with an indoor seedling propagation and storage area, and a fenced outdoor area. The outdoor area has been stocked with dirt, but seeds have not been propagated. A second building is a toilet facility. A third building is the Visitor’s Center, with an indoor room for displays and vending and an outdoor waiting area. The structures have been completed and are ready for daytime use. The cost of constructing the structures and obtaining necessary fixtures such as toilets was more expensive than originally envisaged. PCS and the Ngardok Nature Reserve Board have sought other funding to obtain solar panels. PCS will continue to report on progress at the Visitor’s Center until it is fully operational. Field representative Simon Ellis also plans to visit Palau before the end of 2010 and will visit the facility.