Environment and development
in coastal regions and in small islands
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Institutional strengthening of beach management capabilities in the organisation of
 eastern Caribbean States and the Turks and Caicos Islands
  

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

        Against a background of mounting shoreline erosion, increased hurricane frequency, rising sea levels and economic dependency on coastal tourism, the small islands of the Caribbean face a major dilemma - how to maintain and expand their coastal tourism industries while at the same time conserving their beaches for residents and tourists alike.  This report describes the first phase of a project designed to help the islands belonging to the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (Anguilla, Antigua and Barbuda, British Virgin Islands, Dominica, Grenada, Montserrat, St. Kitts-Nevis, St. Lucia, St. Vincent and the Grenadines) and the Turks and Caicos Islands, develop the institutional capability to effectively manage and find solutions to these problems.

        The project is funded by the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB) and executed through a co-operation agreement with the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO). The objective of the project is to strengthen in-country capability to analyse and interpret beach change data, such that existing beach monitoring programmes become sustainable at the national level.  For this purpose specially designed software had been prepared (Beach Profile Analysis), and through this current CDB/UNESCO project, the software was installed in environmental agencies in the countries/territories and training was provided in the use of the software.

        This project builds on the foundation laid by the UNESCO/University of Puerto Rico Sea Grant College Program project on ‘Coast and Beach Stability in the Caribbean’ (COSALC) in which beach monitoring programmes, using standardised methodology, have been established in government and non-government organisations in the islands.

        An assessment of the phase 1 CDB/UNESCO project activities indicated that seven of the eleven countries/territories have vibrant beach monitoring programmes which can be expected to become self-sufficient and continue without external support by the end of phase 2 of this project.  In the other four countries/territories, either information was incomplete or it is expected that further assistance will be required in the field of beach monitoring.

        As a result of the COSALC project and this present CDB/UNESCO project, many islands now have significant beach change databases covering more than five years and in a few cases more than ten years.  This is a critical quantitative record showing the results of natural factors such as hurricanes, and human activities such as sand mining.  Such data sets represent a solid foundation on which to base future decisions concerning beach conservation, coastal development and tourism activities. The length of the data sets also illustrates the commitment of the islands to monitoring and to what is still a newly evolving field in the Caribbean - integrated coastal management.

        The results of the beach monitoring activities were also discussed within a framework of integrated coastal management.  The tangible benefits of beach monitoring include the establishment of beach change databases and the skills to use them, but there are also intangible benefits such as giving persons the opportunity for observation and assessment of activities on their islands’ beaches thus providing them with the knowledge base to play an active role in all aspects of beach management, from planning to pollution, from erosion to beach access.

        The difficulties of capacity building in small island states is another very relevant issue. Innovative ways through which some islands have maximised their limited institutional capacity were described.  However, it must be recognised that most of these measures depend on having in place standardised and simple monitoring protocols.  One of the most significant problems that needs addressing is the propensity for island governments to call in outside experts rather than to trust the advice of their own professionals.

        The problems associated with trying to develop an integrated approach within a sectoral system of government were highlighted and an example of one island which has successfully achieved this integration in their beach monitoring activities was described.

        The nature of management, whether top-down or bottom-up, was discussed.  It was recognised that while efforts should continue to be focused at the bottom-up approach, this should not dilute efforts directed towards those at a senior administrative/political level.  Indeed it was recommended that innovative ways must be found to continuously transmit concise, relevant environmental information to senior administrators and politicians in order to assist them make informed decisions.

              The need for networking within the region about beach management issues was also addressed.  Focused electronic discussion groups are a potential way to share information.  The activities proposed for phase 2 of the project were outlined, these will be adapted to specific island needs.

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