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

Coast and beach stability in the Lesser Antilles (COSALC): an overview


This project was launched by UNESCO in mid-1980s in response to a request for assistance from the smaller islands of the eastern Caribbean. Considering the importance of beaches, particularly to the vital tourist industry, problems arising from beach erosion were the major concern. The activities are carried out by counterparts in the participating islands and supported from the project's coordinating centre. The centre is located at and supported by the Sea Grant College Program of the University of Puerto Rico.

The Problem: Beach Erosion

The beaches of the Caribbean islands are of primary importance for a number of reasons. The beaches:

Beaches are also one of the most dynamic and fast changing parts of the islands' landscape.

As a result of waves, tides, currents and human influences, beaches change on an hourly, daily, seasonal and long-term basis. In recent decades, beach erosion has become a major problem and concern to the Caribbean island nations. This is largerly due to the fact that coastal infrastructure and entire communities are threatened by beach erosion.

While some beaches in the Caribbean are accreting, the overall trend on the islands is toward beach erosion as a response to hurricanes, winter swells, beach sand mining and pollution. Hurricanes and winter swells may move sand into deep water offshore, thereby permanently removing it from the beach system. The change from wooden housing to concrete has contributed to massive losses of beach sand, as this resource is more and more widely used in construction. Pollution - including sedimentation - may cause deterioration and destruction of the coral reefs. In their healthy state, these reefs protect beaches from wave action (and thus erosion). They are also a major source of beach sand.

Beach erosion rates vary considerably. Rates as high as five meters a year have been recorded on the Eastern Caribbean islands.


The goal of the project is to develop in-country capabilities so that Island States can measure, assess and manage their own beach resources within an overall framework of integrated coastal management.


A network of government and non-governmental organizations in Anguilla, Antigua-Barbuda, the British Virgins Islands, Dominica, Grenada, Montserrat, St. Kitts and Nevis, St. Lucia, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, and the Turks & Caicos Islands.

Each of these islands has established a beach monitoring programme, where people from the various agencies survey beach cross sections on a regular basis. Then the data are analyzed and interpreted in order to determine how their beaches are changing over time. The data bases, which vary in length from one to eight years, are being used in order to facilitate:

Efforts continue to ensure that the information on beach changes is available to all the different agencies and special interest groups on each island so that it may be used and applied on a regular basis. Programmes are also being developed within the secondary schools.

Future Directions

For further information, contact:

Dr. Gillian Cambers
Project Coordinator, COSALC
University of Puerto Rico
Sea Grant College Program
P.O. Box 5000
MayagŁez, Puerto Rico 00681-5000
Tel: (787) 932-3585
Fax: (787) 265-2880
e-mail: ma_valdes@rumac.upr.clu.edu


UNESCO-CSI, fax +33-1-45685808, e-mail: csi@unesco.org

From: Coast and Beach Stability in the Lesser Antilles (COSALC) (1996).
A brochure prepared by the University of Puerto Rico Sea Grant College Program.
Updated for the CSI home page in February 1997.

  Introduction    Activities   Publications   word
Wise Practices   Regions   Themes