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


       Shorelines are areas of continuous change where the natural forces of wind and water interact with the land.  Shoreline changes are the result of both natural forces such as storms and hurricanes, and human activities such as sand mining and construction too close to the beach.  Such changes have taken on paramount importance in the Caribbean islands since tourism has become one of the major industries.  Statistics show that for the last two decades tourism has been the only steady growth industry in the region (Patullo 1996). Yet all too often, shorelines, and particularly the beaches, the availability of which is one of the main reasons visitors come to the Caribbean, are regarded as permanent features of the landscape requiring little in the way of management.

       Besides tourism, Caribbean beaches are highly valued by island residents for relaxation, sports and simple enjoyment.  Furthermore they provide areas for fish landing sites and fulfil the role of flexible barriers protecting valuable land and infrastructure during storms and hurricanes.

       Against this background, and as a response to regional concerns about beach erosion and its effects on tourism, a project entitled ‘Coast and Beach Stability in the Caribbean (COSALC)’ was established by the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) in 1985. This project initially sought to develop the institutional capacity to effectively manage the problems associated with beach changes, however, the scope has since widened to cover aspects of the entire field of beach management, from pollution to planning, from erosion to access. The project is administered by UNESCO under their platform for ‘Environment and Development in Coastal Regions and in Small Islands’ (CSI) together with the University of Puerto Rico Sea Grant College Program (UPR-SGCP), through a memorandum of understanding initiated in March 1994.

       The COSALC project covers the nine countries/territories of the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS), the Turks and Caicos Islands, Haiti and the United States Virgin Islands.  Emphasis has been placed on developing the institutional capacity to manage coastline change by establishing and maintaining beach monitoring programmes, using standardised methodology, within government and non-government organisations.  These activities have resulted in a local knowledge base on beach changes, their causes and solutions.

       Other COSALC project components have focused on planning for coastline change, as well as educational and awareness activities.  The ‘Planning for coastline change’ component is assisting four countries/territories with the design and implementation of coastal development setback guidelines so as to ensure that new developments are placed a ‘safe’ distance from the active beach zone.  The awareness component is focusing on developing the skills within three of the countries/territories to prepare and broadcast their own environmental videos.  The educational component is developing and implementing a Sandwatch project to train students in the scientific method through beach monitoring activities and then to use their information in the design and implementation of community based beach management projects.

      The present project, entitled ‘Institutional Strengthening of Beach Management Capabilities in the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States and the Turks and Caicos Islands’ is funded through a co-operation agreement between the Caribbean Development Bank and 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 (Beach Profile Analysis) had been prepared (through a grant from the UPR-SGCP Multi-Programme and Regional Development sector).  This current CDB/UNESCO project provides for the installation of the software in the environmental and planning agencies in the countries/territories and for training in the use of the software, so that the island countries/territories can analyse and interpret their beach monitoring results.  This will provide the necessary skills so that in the future they can apply the information to coastal decision making to ensure the effective management of beach erosion phenomena.

       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. Furthermore they may provide useful input to other projects e.g. the Global Environment Facility project ‘Caribbean Planning for Adaptation to Climate Change.’ 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 timing of this CDB/UNESCO project was indeed opportune, for in November 1999, Hurricane Lenny, one of the most destructive hurricanes to affect the eastern Caribbean islands, caused massive coastal erosion along the leeward coasts of the islands from Grenada to Anguilla.

            Ten countries/territories are included in this project: the nine OECS countries/ territories and the Turks and Caicos Islands. For the purposes of this project, St. Kitts and Nevis have been treated separately since the constitution of the Federation of St. Kitts-Nevis allows for separate government agencies in each island.

       The project was divided into two phases. The first phase covered the period 1st October, 1999 to 30th April 2000, and is the subject of this report.  During this phase, visits were made to all the islands and various training activities were conducted.  Phase 2, which runs from 1st May to the beginning of 2001 will consolidate and evaluate the results of phase 1 as well as undertaking some new activities.

       The following two sections of this report deal with the project objectives and terms of reference, and the methodology.  Following this, the results are described island by island and then through a sub-regional assessment.  This is followed by a discussion section focusing on beach monitoring activities within the framework of integrated coastal management.  The final section of the report provides an outline of phase 2 activities.

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