in coastal regions and in small islands
strengthening of beach management capabilities in the organisation of
eastern Caribbean States and the Turks and Caicos Islands
MONITORING ACTIVITIES AND INTEGRATED COASTAL MANAGEMENT
All the islands involved in this project are small islands, some are
small island developing states (SIDS), some are territories, and as such they
face similar problems: small size and populations, the importance of their
coastal areas environmentally and economically, their dependence on outside
influences (e.g. economic factors in North America), and their vulnerability to
beach monitoring activities focus on just one geographical part of the coastal
system, yet the implementation of these monitoring activities involves all
aspects/ principles of integrated coastal management. The following discussion
focuses on monitoring within the wider context of integrated coastal management.
and intangible benefits of environmental monitoring
A monitoring programme may be divided into four components: data
collection, data analysis, data interpretation and data application. To simplify
the differences a comparison may be drawn: oceans of data, seas of information,
rivers of knowledge and drops of wisdom. Thus
the goal of the monitoring may be seen as deriving a few drops of wisdom e.g.
wise decisions, from the oceans of data e.g. the time series graphs showing
Through the beach monitoring
activities over the past decade, data collection has become an established
activity in most islands. With the
help of this current project and the new software and training that has been
provided, data analysis and data interpretation are also becoming established
activities in most islands. However, the application of scientific data to
coastal decision making, e.g. how to use the information in the review of
coastal planning applications, or in the selection of beaches for mining, is a
very difficult skill to transfer, and one which involves individuals, their
perceptions and background training, as well as institutional procedures for
decision making. Some of the islands have the potential to move on to the data
application stage, particularly those islands where the monitoring is in the
hands of persons with tertiary (university) education, and this aspect will be
further developed in phase 2 of this project.
Obviously, in order for the maximum benefit to be derived from a beach
monitoring programme, all four components (data collection, analysis,
interpretation and application) should be in place.
However, even if only one component is ongoing, e.g. data collection, an
island may derive considerable benefit. For
beach monitoring goes beyond the establishment of a database and the skills to
use it, regular monitoring provides the persons involved with the opportunity
for observation and assessment of changing conditions, e.g.:
- physical changes in a
- the performance of sea defence structures,
- the clearing of land and coastal vegetation in preparation for building,
- the construction of new structures with or without planning permission,
- changes in infrastructure, e.g. a new outfall pipe,
- changing beach uses,
- restriction of public access to or along a beach.
Intangible benefits, such as
the opportunity to make these observations and assessments, ensure that persons
involved in monitoring become knowledgeable about all aspects of their
island’s beaches and armed with this type of information they can then play an
active role in beach management.
To take one example, as a
result of regular monitoring activities, post-hurricane beach assessments can be
conducted by local agencies, as was done in Anguilla after Hurricane Bertha in
1996, and in Dominica after Hurricane Lenny in 1999.
Now with the advantages of the software and training provided by this
project, such assessments can be quantitative.
The reality in the smaller islands in particular shows small
environmental agencies, with very few persons with tertiary education, and
difficulties in keeping good staff. These
problems are evident in many different ways in the islands. For example, in many
cases environmental agencies are fairly new and environmental monitoring may be
a relatively recent activity. Thus while there is often considerable enthusiasm
for collecting the data in the field, there is often less interest in the data
analysis aspects because of unfamiliarity with the objectives and results of
Some islands have found innovative ways to
maximize their institutional
capacity. For instance, Anguilla
has used secretarial staff to enter monitoring data on computer. In addition, by
ensuring that these staff members have the opportunity to take part in field
data collection on occasion, the data entry becomes more meaningful, interesting
Utilizing the assistance of NGOs in the monitoring activities, is another
way of developing institutional capacity, and also a means for involving members
of the public in environmental management. This has worked particularly well in
Nevis, and also in St. Lucia.
Involving personnel from environmental projects in environmental
monitoring is another way of maximizing institutional capacity and also
integrating activities. This was achieved in Dominica when communities taking
part in the ENCORE project (see Section 4.1.4) were involved in beach monitoring
activities. While unfortunately their involvement did not continue once the
ENCORE project finished, those persons residing in the communities who were
involved in monitoring now have the benefit of increased knowledge about the
changes taking place on their community’s beaches and how to deal with those
Similarly, involving schools in the monitoring activities is another way
of spreading information about beach changes and beach management to students,
their parents and communities. The
students learn about science, and its applications to their island environments.
This has been illustrated successfully in Carriacou, in Grenada’s
Grenadine Islands, where students have been monitoring the island’s beaches
for more than three years. A similar programme has recently started in Bequia, in St.
Vincent and the Grenadines.
These different ways to
maximize institutional capacity and to involve
other groups require considerable effort and time from the main island
counterpart agency. Often, it takes
more time to coordinate and train another group than to do the actual
monitoring. Thus commitment to the
overall goals of integrated coastal management are crucial.
Furthermore, in order for such efforts to work, the monitoring protocols,
particularly for data collection and analysis, must be standardized and simple.
However, it is one matter to strengthen institutional capacity at the
technical and professional levels, and yet another matter to actually use that
enhanced institutional capacity. All
too often island governments prefer to call in outside experts, rather than to
consult and listen to the opinion and advice of their own professionals.
This is a significant problem that needs addressing through projects such
as this one and is further discussed under the topic ‘Top-down
and bottom-up approaches.’ Unless
island governments listen to, and heed the advice of their own support staff and
professionals, efforts at enhancing
persons at this level will have gone to waste, and valuable staff members will
become part of an overseas ‘brain-drain.’
and integrated approaches
Proponents of integrated coastal management have long deplored the
sectoral nature of government institutions.
However, there is a long history of sectoral government in the Caribbean
islands which continues up until today. Hence, perhaps we should be looking at
ways to strengthen the sectors whilst at the same time promoting ways to share
ideas, exchange information and coordinate actions.
While considerable efforts are being made in this direction, especially
through projects and committees, true integration is some distance away in most
of the islands.
Grenada is one island that has made an effort to integrate its beach
monitoring activities. Four
different agencies from two different ministries work together to collect and
analyse the data. However,
mechanisms still have to be established to share the updated databases, although
it is anticipated that this will be achieved during phase 2 of this project. As
discussed under the topic ‘Building
institutional capacity’, such coordination/integration efforts require
considerable time and effort on the part of the agency doing the coordination.
The difficulties of coordination can be seen in Anguilla and Antigua and
Barbuda, where beach monitoring programmes were initially established with both
planning and environmental agencies playing lead roles.
However, after two or three years, the planning agency ceased its role in
data collection as other priorities took precedent, and the environmental agency
was left to continue the monitoring activity on its own.
While integrated coastal management calls for the sharing of information,
the difficulties involved in actually sharing data
have yet to be fully discussed and resolved.
Some islands have put in place a system whereby the public have to pay
for such information, e.g. for use in environmental impact assessments, although
the payment usually covers only the printing costs not the actual cost of the
data collection. The question
arises whether such information should be given freely to other government
departments, statutory bodies. Issues
regarding data ownership and value require further discussion within the region.
In many of the islands,
environmental and planning agencies are involved in the beach monitoring
activities, if not directly with data collection, at least with data
interpretation and application. However,
in most islands it is the department with responsibility for public works which
is directly concerned with sea defences and the control of beach sand mining.
These agencies therefore have an important role to play in beach monitoring,
especially in view of the fact that beaches provide natural, flexible barriers
which protect infrastructure such as roads. While this agency will be involved
in phase 2 of this project, their involvement as joint partners with planning
and environmental agencies in beach management must be an ultimate goal.
While it may be argued that
environmental (beach) monitoring should be the responsibility of environmental
agencies, the active involvement of other agencies, particularly planning and
public works, is essential for effective management and decision making.
and bottom-up approaches
Recent trends in integrated coastal management have pointed to the need
for a bottom-up approach rather than the traditional top-down approach.
But perhaps, a middle ground needs to be developed, which brings together
the top and the bottom, a difficult task indeed.
A recent paper by Courtney
and White (2000) points to this very problem
‘...issues facing Philippine coasts and their human communities are too
complex and caused by too many factors to find viable solutions by intervening
only at the local level.’
The monitoring activities
described in this report fall somewhere in the middle of the spectrum between
top and bottom. Aiming as they do, to strengthen institutional capacity at the
professional and technical level, they have also attempted in some islands to
enhance capabilities at the community, NGO and school levels.
The need to continue focusing efforts on the bottom-up approach was
clearly illustrated in St. Kitts during the present project. The construction of a controversial seawall, which restricted
access along the beach during a seasonal erosion episode, resulted in
considerable concern and debate about a lack of transparency and a lack of
public involvement in the permitting and approval process.
Yet efforts directed at the bottom-up approach should not dilute efforts
at the top-down approach. In many
of the islands, major, and sometimes minor, development decisions are made by
the political directorate, with or without the advice of their technical support
staff. Thus innovative ways must be
found to provide essential environmental information to political, and senior
administrative persons, so as to assist them in the making of informed
decisions. This will not be a
simple or straight-forward task, because while it is relatively easy to provide
training to technical and professional persons through workshops and other
means, time constraints make it impossible to apply similar methods to
politicians and senior administrators. Thus
methods must be found that have continuity and relay the information in a
concise, easily understandable and relevant manner, and which recognise that
politicians have other agendas to follow besides the environmental one.
local to regional to global levels
There does not as yet exist any formal mechanism for reporting
environmental monitoring results to a central agency, this is an area that
merits further consideration. With
many aid agencies basing their monetary assistance solely on economic indicators
such as gross domestic product (GDP), incorporating environmental indicators
such as the loss/reduction in size of an island’s beaches because of a
particularly severe hurricane or as a result of inappropriate coastal
construction, might provide a more realistic
picture of an island’s true state of development.
Similarly, there is no mechanism within the sub-region for exchanging
information about beach management issues.
For example, after Hurricane Lenny, several islands were considering
offshore dredging to replace eroded beaches, but did not know where to turn to
for advice, apart from coastal engineering firms.
Yet there exists a wealth of hands-on experience about such activities in
a number of islands, e.g. Anguilla, British Virgin Islands, St. Lucia.
Establishing a focused, electronic list for sharing such information
regionally could provide for information exchange and practical advice.
While the region faces many limitations with e-mail and Internet access,
these should improve in the future and should not deter the start of such an
information exchange network.
Moving beyond the regional level to the global level, small island developing states and territories all over the world face similar problems relating to sustainable development and environmental management. Exchanging information globally is yet another way to benefit from the experiences of others in similar situations. However, in order for such exchanges to be beneficial, and not merely time consuming, they have to be focused, for instance the global forum on ‘Wise Coastal Practices for Sustainable Human Development’ moderated by UNESCO’s Coasts and Small Islands platform seeks to define, assess and implement wise coastal management practices. (This Forum can be accessed at http://www.csiwisepractices.org user name = csi; password = wise).