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

5. SOCIO-CULTURAL DOMAIN

Social, cultural and economic aspects have also been considered among the priorities of the project. To this end two major activities were conducted in 1996-1997:

5.1 SOCIO-CULTURAL SURVEY

A preliminary assessment of other beach management issues besides erosion, was conducted in 1996. A questionnaire was prepared which covered issues dealing with beach maintenance, public access to beaches, safety issues, user conflicts and noise. A direct interview approach was used with government and non government agencies in Anguilla, Antigua and Barbuda, British Virgin Islands ,Grenada, Nevis, St. Kitts, and St. Vincent and the Grenadines. In the remaining islands, Dominica, Montserrat, St. Lucia and the Turks and Caicos Islands, the questionnaire was mailed. The results were compiled, and after their presentation at the COSALC regional workshop (1996), a report was prepared (36).

The survey showed some interesting results. User conflicts and a lack of beach access were viewed as major problems in most islands. Conflicts between different groups of beach users, such as fishermen and hotel managers, jet ski operators and divers, emerged on most islands.

After discussion with several social scientists in 1997, it was decided that the sample surveyed was too limited to make the reported results the basis of future action. Several ways to enhance the original survey were discussed, including a much wider survey to sample different beach users .

5.2 ENVIRONMENTAL INDICATORS

Within the Caribbean, national income is used as an indicator of a country’s development performance. This indicator alone does not make any allowance for the fact that future income generation may be jeopardized by current activities which damage the natural environment. Several regional agencies are working on the development of environmental indicators, to be used alongside traditional economic indicators, to evaluate a country’s development performance.

In 1997, the project participants worked together with the Caribbean Development Bank to determine whether the beach change database could be used to provide an indicator of environmental change (37). Three islands were selected for the project activity, the main criteria upon which their selection was based were:

The three islands selected were Anguilla, Antigua and Montserrat. A beach change index based on changes in beach volume was developed. The index proved to be a useful way to compare beach changes amongst these three islands. The data-sets were sub-divided into groups based on the extent of development behind a beach, the presence or absence of sand mining activities, the existence of beach enhancement structures such as groyne fields and offshore breakwaters. Preliminary analysis showed that developed beaches experienced more serious erosion during hurricanes and were slower to recover after hurricanes. Future work will involve testing the index in other islands.

The beach change index has the potential to be used as one indicator of environmental change which could be combined with existing economic indices. However, some additional steps would have to be added to existing beach analysis procedures so that the data are produced in the required format.

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