Environment and development
in coastal regions and in small islands
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CSI info 6


The present report outlines the work undertaken by the ‘Coast and Beach Stability in the Caribbean Islands’ (COSALC) project during 1996 and 1997. The project is jointly sponsored by UNESCO under its Environment and Development in Coastal Regions and Small Islands (CSI) endeavour, and the University of Puerto Rico Sea Grant College Program (UPR-SGCP). The three main programme areas for the project are: institutional strengthening, public awareness and education, and the socio-cultural domain. A regional workshop, held in 1996 for the countries/territories involved, provided a forum to discuss beach management issues in the region and to determine specific needs and subject areas within the three main programme areas.

Institutional strengthening activities have concentrated on beach monitoring programmes, utilization of beach change databases in coastal planning, and development of wise management practices. The beach monitoring programmes provide a mechanism for continual training and information transfer as well as a database for management. During 1996-1997, they have been strengthened by the provision of further training and support as well as the supply of new equipment. The status of the individual programmes is reviewed and while no programme is yet self-sufficient, it is hoped that with the provision of new data analysis software, which will include data quality control and analysis procedures, this goal can be achieved in the future in some of the islands.

The beach change databases have been used in the assessment of the 1989 and 1995 hurricanes, which affected the eastern Caribbean islands, as well as in the review of coastal planning applications in specific islands. Wise management practices have concentrated on designing a methodology for coastal development setbacks such that beaches, as well as coastal infrastructure, can be conserved. Specific islands are being assisted with the design and implementation of new coastal development setback guidelines.

Public awareness activities have concentrated on the development of awareness materials (pamphlets, slide presentations, posters, coastal erosion handbook) for use within the islands. Future activities will focus on the provision of training in the preparation of video clips which it is hoped can be used to get information on beach management issues out to the public.

Within the socio-cultural domain, the project conducted an assessment of the social and cultural components of beach management in the islands. Key areas of concern were beach access and user conflicts. Another initiative focused on the incorporation of the beach change database into an environmental indicator to be used alongside traditional economic indicators to assess a country/territory’s development.

Future activities will focus on ensuring the continuity and self-sufficiency of the beach monitoring programmes, the development of new beach analysis software, the use of video clips as a medium for awareness, and the implementation of wise management practices. The geographical scope of the project will also be expanded to include the U.S. Virgin Islands.

Against a background of natural forces such as hurricanes, increasing development adjacent to beaches, and the continued growth and economic dependence on the tourism industry, there is a need to strengthen the islands’ capabilities to effectively manage their beach resources.

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