Environment and development
in coastal regions and in small islands
colbartn.gif (4535 octets)



    2.1 Background
    2.2 Participation
    4.1 Antigua and Barbuda
    4.2 Nevis
    4.3 St. Lucia

University of Puerto Rico Sea Grant College Program
June, 1998.


This report summarizes and assesses the activities undertaken in 1998 within a project entitled "Planning for Coastline Change" in which coastal development setback guidelines were prepared for three island countries/territories in the eastern Caribbean: Antigua and Barbuda, Nevis and St. Lucia. In Nevis, a second phase of the project involved the development of a shoreline management strategy. The project was funded by UNESCO through their Environment and Development in Coastal Regions and Small Islands (CSI) endeavour and the University of Puerto Rico Sea Grant College Program through their Multi-Program and Regional Development facility.

The project activities are described and assessed. Coastal development setbacks were developed for each country/territory using a generic methodology which had been tested in Anguilla in 1996. One of the major problems encountered with the generic methodology was how to deal with mangrove shorelines. It was concluded that mangrove coastal shorelines have to be dealt with on an individual basis, as is the case with beaches. Reports detailing the setbacks for each country/territory have been prepared with the assistance of organizations, both government and non-government, in each country/territory.

In view of the relative newness of some of the physical planning agencies in the smaller eastern Caribbean islands, it is recommended that the project, "Planning for Coastline Change" moves into a second phase whereby assistance is provided to the countries/territories in implementing the setback guidelines. This will involve training of planning personnel, education and awareness activities.

Coastal development setback guidelines are seen as a wise management practice which will help the islands ensure that new coastal development is sustainable and that beach erosion problems are reduced.


This report provides a brief overview and assessment of the activities of the project "Planning for Coastline Change" which is jointly sponsored by UNESCO through their Environment and Development in Coastal Regions and Small Islands (CSI) endeavour and the University of Puerto Rico Sea Grant College Program (UPR-SGCP) through their Multi-Program and Regional Development facility.

The report describes the background and activities of the project and provides an assessment as well as recommendations for future work.

2.1 Background

The project "Planning for Coastline Change" had its beginnings after a major hurricane swept through the eastern Caribbean islands, namely Hurricane Luis in September, 1995.

One of the territories affected by Hurricane Luis, Anguilla, requested assistance with planning their rebuilding efforts and the planning of future development close to the sea. The government of the U.K. Dependent Territories Regional Secretariat responded through their project "Impact of Hurricane Luis on the Coastal and Marine Resources of Anguilla." UNESCO's CSI unit in conjunction with the UPR-SGCP responded through their project "Coast and Beach Stability in the Caribbean Islands" (COSALC). As a result of these efforts, some new guidelines for coastal development setbacks in Anguilla were prepared (Cambers, 1996). These guidelines have been incorporated into the Draft National Land Use Plan, which has been submitted to the Executive Council for its approval. In the meantime the Land Development Control Committee, the body established by law to determine all applications for planning permission in Anguilla, is implementing the guidelines. The Physical Planning Department is also placing much emphasis on awareness and education. The strategy appears to be somewhat successful as there are fewer appeals against the setbacks imposed by the Committee, (Cambers and Proctor, 1998).

During a regional workshop held at the University of Puerto Rico in 1996 on an "Integrated framework for the management of beach resources in the smaller Caribbean islands" one of the programme areas designated for future action was "to review existing coastal development setbacks and to assist the islands to revise such wherever necessary using a variable setback methodology" (UNESCO, 1997).

Following the Anguillan initiative and the regional workshop, the coastal development setback guidelines were re-written into a generic format, reviewed by several Caribbean experts, and published by UNESCO's CSI unit (Cambers, 1997). The guidelines have been widely circulated within the region together with a poster "The sea at your doorstep."

At the end of 1997 funds were made available from UNESCO's CSI unit through contract #SC/RP 207.046.7 and the UPR-SGCP through contract # MPRD-7-124-1-97 for the project "Planning for Coastline Change."

2.2 Participation

Two islands had previously requested assistance with the preparation of new coastal development setbacks, Nevis (1996) and Antigua and Barbuda (1997), so these islands were obvious choices for inclusion within the project "Planning for Coastline Change." Funds were available to include a third country/territory. St. Lucia was selected out of the remaining COSALC member countries/territories since it fulfilled several criteria:

Thus the three countries/territories who participated in this project were:

Table 1 shows the main counterpart agency in each country as well as other involved organizations.

Table 1. Organizations Involved in the Project

Country/territory Main Counterpart Organization Other Organizations Involved in the Project
Antigua and Barbuda Development Control Authority Environment Unit,
Fisheries Division,
Surveys Department,
Environmental Awareness Group.
Nevis Physical Planning Unit Fisheries Division,
Ministry of Lands, Housing and Development,
Nevis Historical and Conservation Commission.
St. Lucia Sustainable Development Unit
of the Ministry of Planning and Development
Fisheries Department,
Lands and Surveys Department,
Ministry of Agriculture,
Ministry of Communications, Works, Transport and Public Utilities,
Northwest Coast Conservation Project,
Parks and Beaches Commission,
Physical Planning Section of Ministry of Planning and Development,
St. Lucia Tourist Board,
St. Lucia National Trust.

(Non government organizations are shown in italics).


Visits were made to each country/territory according to the following schedule:

Antigua and Barbuda: 18-23 January, 1998;
Nevis: 1-6 March, 1998;
St. Lucia: 19-24 April, 1998.

During each visit, meetings were held with the chief counterpart agency, a planning agency in all cases, as well as with other organizations - both government agencies and non government organizations. The purpose of these meetings was to explain the proposed methodology, to find out about current coastal planning practices, to determine the nature of local concerns and to enlist the support of the various agencies in the project.

A major activity during each visit was to measure historical coastline changes using aerial photographs. Visits were also made to selected beaches to see first hand some of the planning problems. Beach change databases were also updated for use in the setback determination.

During the planning phase of the project, Nevis requested assistance with the development of a shoreline management strategy. In order to accommodate this request, the activities in Nevis were divided into two stages:

Following each island visit a draft report was prepared on coastal development setback guidelines for the particular country/territory. In the case of Nevis only, a second draft report was prepared on a shoreline management strategy. Ten copies of the draft report were then sent to the chief counterpart agencies in each island for circulation and review. Once the comments were received from each island, as well as UNESCO's CSI unit, final reports were prepared. These were as follows:

Planning for Coastline Change:

1. Coastal Development Setback Guidelines in Antigua and Barbuda, To see these you will need to:
2a. Coastal Development Setback Guidelines in Nevis,
2b. Shoreline Management in Nevis: A Position Paper,
3. Coastal Development Setback Guidelines in St. Lucia.

Ten copies of the final reports have been sent to each country/territory.


The project was successful in each country/territory and achieved its goals. New coastal development setback guidelines have been prepared for each country/territory with the active participation of agencies in those countries/territories. Persons and agencies were very positive about the project goals, they saw the need for the project and were very helpful in undertaking the project and reviewing the draft documents.

In Nevis, the project went one step further with the preparation of a shoreline management strategy which defined several options for the overall management of shoreline changes including how to deal with erosion problems caused by existing beachfront development.

Physical planning is a relatively new discipline in the smaller eastern Caribbean islands. While most islands have had some form of development control for many years, physical planning has only really come onto the scene in the last ten years. The islands have received considerable assistance in recent years from the United Nations Centre for Human Settlements (UNCHS), through institutional strengthening and the preparation of development plans.

Thus, it is recognized that the preparation of the guidelines is only one stage, the next step, which is probably going to be more difficult to achieve, and which will require considerable further support, is to assist the countries/territories in the implementation of these guidelines.

The following sections assess the project activities in each country/territory.

4.1 Antigua and Barbuda

Prior to this project, setbacks in Antigua and Barbuda had been somewhat arbitrarily determined and problems resulting from badly placed coastal development abounded.

One of the major problems encountered in applying the methodology to Antigua and Barbuda was how to deal with mangrove shorelines, at least 11% of Antigua's shoreline is fringed with mangroves, and probably a larger percentage in Barbuda. This type of shoreline had not been included in the generic methodology, which had concentrated primarily on beaches, while also including cliffs and low rocky shores. It was decided that individual mangrove areas would have to be treated individually, as are beaches. Since an inventory of mangrove areas is currently in progress in Antigua and Barbuda, it was decided to wait until this was completed and the various mangrove areas had been assessed and prioritized, before proposing setback guidelines for these shorelines.

More than six years beach monitoring data in Antigua ensured that a sound database was available on which to base the new setbacks. In Barbuda, where the beach monitoring database is much shorter, more extrapolation and estimation was required.

Furthermore in Antigua, it was not possible to prepare individual setbacks for every beach, since there are more than 300 beaches. Therefore, with the assistance of the Development Control Authority (DCA), a list was prepared of the major beaches and those where development was likely to take place in the future. Setbacks were designed for these beaches and it was recommended that where no setbacks had been specifically determined, values for adjacent beaches should be utilized.

Initially setbacks were only determined for the west and south coasts of Barbuda, however, at the suggestion of the local agencies, setbacks were estimated for the east coast - these may have to be reviewed at a later date. (The north coast of Barbuda is a mangrove coastline).

4.2 Nevis

Prior to this project, setback guidelines, included in Nevis' 1991 planning regulations, were very generous, e.g. new development had to be placed 300 feet from the high water mark. However, these values were viewed as unrealistic, therefore they had not been fully implemented.

Nevis is a small island, so it was possible to determine coastal development setbacks for the entire coastline, including the one section of mangrove shoreline on the north coast. In addition an inventory was undertaken of sea defence structures and a shoreline management strategy was prepared.

No major technical problems were encountered with the methodology in Nevis. More than ten years beach monitoring data ensured that there was a sound database on which to base the setbacks.

4.3 St. Lucia

Prior to this project, coastal development setbacks had been arbitrarily determined in St. Lucia, there were no fixed setbacks and decisions lacked consistency. This problem had been recognized by some agencies in St. Lucia prior to the project, "Planning for Coastline Change".

Setbacks were prepared for the entire coast of St. Lucia. Because of the sparseness of the beach change database in this country, beaches were matched with those in other islands where longer beach change databases existed. The islands selected for matching were Dominica, which is similar in geology and relief to St. Lucia, and Antigua which has a similarly indented coastline to St. Lucia.

The problem of mangrove shorelines also arose in St. Lucia. While an inventory of these areas exists, sites have not been prioritized in terms of importance. Even at sites designated as marine reserves, no boundaries have been delineated, so regulations cannot be enforced.


The major recommendations are as follows:

  1. Provide further assistance with the implementation of these setbacks to all three islands. This is seen as an essential part of the project implementation.

Follow-up activities in Antigua and Barbuda have already started. These included a public presentation on the "Planning for Coastline Change" project in May, 1998. This is to be followed up by a training course for DCA inspectors and a presentation on the project to the tourism sector in Antigua and Barbuda, provisionally scheduled for October, 1998.

Similar activities, over a period of one to two years, will be required in Nevis and St. Lucia in order to ensure that the setback guidelines are implemented.

  1. Seek additional funding for these follow-up activities. Some of the proposed follow-up work, particularly for Antigua and Barbuda, is to be included in the COSALC 1998 work programme using funds provided by UNESCO's CSI unit. However, additional funding will be required for the other countries.
  2. Amend the generic methodology to include guidelines for mangrove coastlines. Antigua and Barbuda may be a good pilot project for this work, once their wetland inventory is completed (early, 1999).
  3. Extend the project "Planning for Coastline Change" to other COSALC countries.


Cambers, G. 1996. The Impact of Hurricane Luis on the Coastal and Marine Resources of Anguilla: Coastal Development Setback Guidelines. U.K. Dependent Territories Regional Secretariat. 39 pages.

Cambers, G. 1997. Planning for Coastline Change. Guidelines for Construction Setbacks in the Eastern Caribbean Islands. CSI info 4, UNESCO, Paris, viii + 14 pages.

Cambers, G., Proctor, O. 1998 (in press). Anguilla: Planning for Coastal Change. In Clark, J. 1998. Coastal Seas. Blackwell Science, U.K.

UNESCO, 1997. Integrated Framework for the Management of Beach Resources in the Smaller Caribbean Islands. Report from a UNESCO - University of Puerto Rico Workshop, 21-25 October 1996, Mayaguez, Puerto Rico. CSI info 1, UNESCO, Paris, 31 pages.

  Introduction    Activities   Publications   word
Wise Practices   Regions   Themes