Environment and development
in coastal regions and in small islands

News from Nevis

COASTAL ZONE MANAGEMENT

What is it and Who is Responsible?

Introduction: This workshop was supported by the Caribbean Development Bank-UNESCO project on 'Institutional Strengthening of Beach Management Capabilities in the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) and the Turks and Caicos Islands' and was one of a series of workshops held in the islands on 'Wise Coastal Practices for Beach Management'.

An all day workshop organized by the Nevis Planning Department, on Coastal Zone Management was held in September 2000 to discuss coastal issues. Present were various community groups including several representatives of the Nevis Historical and Conservation Society (NHCS).

There was some discussion relating to the Four Seasons beach restoration methods (offshore breakwaters and dredging).  It was recommended that there was the need for continual on-the-site monitoring of the dredging operation by an outside party.  Despite a considerable number of public consultations about the beach work, there was still a lack of understanding of the issues.  Overall it had been a learning experience.

Partly as a result of the situation at the Four Seasons, during which the Department of Planning and Development (DPD) had taken a reactive approach, efforts were now being made to ensure that future approaches would be proactive.

To achieve this the DPD would be preparing  a Coastal Zone Management Plan between 2000 and 2003.  Phase 1 would be undertaken in 2001 and would cover Charlestown to the Airport.  A second phase would cover the rest of the island.  A  coastal zone survey was undertaken in October-November 2000, based on door-to-door inquiries and questionnaires, to catalogue the land based activities behind the beach.  Public involvement would be a key component of the Coastal Zone Management Plan.

The Coastal Zone usually covers all areas affected by the sea including the nearshore spawning areas and reef structures to the land based areas including buildings, wetlands, vegetation and other affected areas. Some of the issues to be tackled are: water quality for multiple use (ie. fisheries habitat, human contact, and waste disposal); coordinated management of the wetlands; continued port development, increased recreational opportunities; and coordinated and broadbased participation in coastal resource management. The emphasis should not be on regulation alone, as experience suggests that a program emphacizing education, incentives, technical assistance, cost sharing, and cooperation will be more effective than a proliferation of rules and penalties. Major elements of this type of program include development of a system charactorization (inventories), priority problem definition, action plans and financial strategy.

Major problems facing the DPD relate to the increased level of development as well as increased sedimentation from land clearing inland. Issues relating to coastal setbacks [This is a PDF file, to see it you will need to get Adobe Acrobat Reader] , maintaining a clear view to the sea, and the responsibility for the removal of eroded buildings were also discussed.

While the coastal zone is the area of highest risk, it is also the area where there is the highest level of financial investment, and added to these factors, there is the issue of public rights to the coastal zone and particularly the beach.  It was recommended that the management of the coast should not be solely dictated by financial considerations, but that an approach based on coastal stewardship be adopted.

Agency responsibilities need to be clearly defined.
(Ed. Note: There are so many government departments, private owners (including hotels), laws and regulations that have some jurisdiction over parts of the coastal zone that true responsibility for the management becomes muddled in bureaucracy.)

A request was made for the public to inform the DPD about illegal development.  The NHCS also plays an important role in this watchdog process.

It was recommended that a core group from this workshop consisting of persons from the public and private sectors, meet to develop the recommendations further.  Such a group might form the foundations of a Coastal Zone Management Committee.

Published in Nevis Historical and Conservation Society (NHCS) Newsletter N° 59, February 2001

'Editor's Note: Among the responses to this article received by the Nevis Historical and Conservation Society was one from Dr. Elaine Morris of the University of Southampton and the Nevis Heritage Project, pointing out that the proposed Coastal Management Plan should include the many historical sites located on the coast e.g. Fort Charles, the Amerindian sites at Indian Castle and Coconut Walk, and the batteries, especially Cotton Tree Fort.'

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