in coastal regions and in small islands
CSI info 15
|6.||DISCUSSION: BEACH MONITORING ACTIVITIES AND INTEGRATED COASTAL MANAGEMENT|
All the islands involved in this project are small islands - some are Small Island Developing States (SIDS), some are territories. As such, they face similar problems: small size and populations, the importance of their coastal areas environmentally and economically, their dependence on outside influences (e.g. economic factors in North America), and their vulnerability to natural disasters.
Well-designed environmental monitoring programmes
provide information needed for management and thus are an integral part of
management. While the beach-monitoring activities focus on just one geographical
part of the coastal system, their implementation involves all aspects/principles
of integrated coastal management. The following discussion focuses on monitoring
within the wider context of integrated coastal management.
6.1 Tangible and Intangible Benefits of Environmental
A monitoring programme may be divided into four
components: data collection, data analysis, data interpretation and data
simplify the differences a comparison may be drawn: ‘oceans of data, seas of
information, rivers of knowledge and drops of wisdom’.
Thus the goal of the monitoring may be seen as deriving a few drops of
wisdom, or wise decisions, from the oceans of data, or hundreds of beach profile
In order for the maximum
benefit to be derived from a beach-monitoring programme, all four components
(data collection, analysis, interpretation and application) should be in place
in the island. However, even if
only one component is ongoing, e.g. data collection, an island may derive
considerable benefit. For example, regular monitoring visits to the beaches,
provides information about seasonal erosion and accretion cycles, and other
simple observations may show the loss of a beach access or excessive garbage on
the beach. Armed with such
information, persons involved in monitoring become knowledgeable about their
island’s beaches and can then play an active role in beach management.
6.2 Building Institutional Capacity
Through the beach-monitoring activities over the
past decade, data collection has become an established activity in most islands.
With the help of this CDB-UNESCO
project, data analysis and data
interpretation are also becoming established activities in most islands.
However, the application of scientific data to coastal decision-making, e.g.
ways to use the information in the review of coastal planning applications, or
in the selection of beaches for mining, is a very difficult skill to transfer.
It involves individuals, their perceptions and background-training, as well as
institutional procedures for decision-making. Some of the islands have the
potential to move forward on to the data application stage, particularly those
islands where the monitoring is in the hands of persons with tertiary
(university) education. For
instance, individuals in Antigua and Barbuda, and Nevis and St. Kitts have used
the beach change database to develop coastal erosion hazard maps (see Sections 4.2.2,
However, it is one matter to strengthen
institutional capacity at the technical and professional levels, and yet another
matter to actually use that enhanced institutional capacity.
All too often island governments prefer to call in outside experts,
rather than to consult and listen to the opinion and advice of their own
professionals. This is a
significant problem that needs to be addressed. Unless island governments listen
to, and heed the advice of their own support staff and professionals, efforts at
training persons at this level will be under-utilized, and valuable staff
members will become part of an overseas ‘brain-drain.’
The reality, in the smaller islands in particular,
shows small environmental agencies, with very few persons with tertiary
education, and difficulties in keeping good staff.
These problems are evident in many different ways in the islands. For
example, in many cases environmental agencies are fairly new and environmental
monitoring may be a relatively recent activity. Thus while there is often
considerable enthusiasm for collecting the data in the field, there is often
less interest in the data analysis aspects because of unfamiliarity with the
objectives and results of environmental monitoring.
Some islands have found innovative ways to
maximize their institutional capacity. For
instance, Anguilla has used secretarial staff to enter monitoring data on
computer. In addition, by ensuring that these staff members have the opportunity
to take part in field data collection on occasion, the data entry becomes more
meaningful, interesting and accurate.
Utilizing the assistance of NGOs in the monitoring
activities is another way of developing institutional capacity and also a
means for involving members of the public in environmental management. This has
worked particularly well in Nevis, and also in St. Lucia. Similarly in Dominica,
communities taking part in the Environmental and Coastal Resources project
(ENCORE) were involved in beach-monitoring activities for a three-year period
(1994-1996). While unfortunately their involvement did not continue once the
ENCORE project finished, those persons residing in the communities who were
involved in monitoring now have the benefit of increased knowledge about the
changes taking place on their community’s beaches and how to deal with those
problems. In a further effort to build capacity at the community level, Dominica
plans to hold decentralized ‘Wise Practices for Beach Management’ workshops
in 2001, as a follow-up activity to the workshops held during this CDB-UNESCO
Involving schools in beach
monitoring, is another
way of imparting information about beach changes and beach management to
students, their parents and communities. The
students learn about science and its applications to their island environments.
This has been illustrated successfully in Carriacou, in Grenada’s
Grenadine Islands, where students have been monitoring the island’s beaches
for more than three years. A
similar programme started within this CDB-UNESCO
project in Bequia, in St.
Vincent and the Grenadines. Involvement
of high school students in the beach monitoring is also being considered in the
Turks and Caicos Islands.
These different ways to maximize institutional
capacity and to involve other groups require considerable effort and time from
the main partner agency. Often, it
takes the partner agency more time to coordinate and train another group, as
well as to oversee the quality of the data, than for the partner agency to do
the actual monitoring. Thus
commitment to the overall goals of integrated coastal management are crucial.
Furthermore, in order for such efforts to work, the monitoring protocols,
particularly for data collection and analysis, must be standardized and simple.
6.3 Sectoral and Integrated Approaches
Proponents of integrated coastal management have
long deplored the sectoral nature of government institutions.
However, there is a long history of sectoral government in the Caribbean
islands, which continues up until today. Hence, perhaps the focus should be on
ways to strengthen the sectors whilst at the same time promoting ways to share
ideas, exchange information and coordinate actions.
While considerable efforts are being made in this direction, especially
through projects and committees, true integration is some distance away in most
of the islands.
Grenada is one island that has made an effort to
integrate its beach-monitoring activities.
Four different agencies from two different ministries work together to
collect and analyse the data. However,
mechanisms still have to be established in Grenada to share the updated
The difficulties of coordination can be seen in
Anguilla, and Antigua and Barbuda, where beach-monitoring programmes were
initially established with both planning and environmental agencies playing key
roles. However, after two or three
years, the planning agency ceased its input to the data collection process as
other priorities took precedence, and the environmental agency was left to
continue the monitoring activity on its own.
While integrated coastal management calls for the
sharing of information, the difficulties involved in actually sharing data
have yet to be fully resolved. Some
islands have put in place a system whereby the public has to pay for such
information, e.g. for use in environmental impact assessments, although the
payment usually covers only the printing costs not the actual cost of the data
collection. The question arises
whether such information should be given freely to other government departments
and statutory bodies. Issues
regarding data ownership and monetary value require further discussion within
As a result of this CDB-UNESCO
environmental and planning agencies in most islands are now involved in the
beach-monitoring activities, if not directly with data collection, at least with
data interpretation and application. However, in most islands it is the department with
responsibility for public works, which is directly concerned with sea defences
and the control of beach sand mining. These agencies therefore have an important
role to play in beach management, especially in view of the fact that beaches
provide natural, flexible barriers, which protect infrastructure such as roads.
It is often difficult to involve agencies with responsibility for public works
in environmental and planning initiatives; for instance, they were only
represented in a few of the island workshops despite being invited to all the
workshops. Nevertheless, their involvement in beach management, as partners with
planning and environmental agencies, as well as with coastal communities and
other groups from civil society, must be an ultimate goal.
6.4 Top-down and Bottom-up Approaches
Recent trends in integrated coastal management
have pointed to the need for a bottom-up approach rather than the traditional
top-down approach. But perhaps, a
common ground needs to be developed, which brings together the top and the
bottom, a difficult task indeed. A
recent paper by Courtney and White (2000) points to this very problem
‘…..issues facing Philippine coasts and their human communities are too
complex and caused by too many factors to find viable solutions by intervening
only at the local level.’
The monitoring activities described in this report
fall somewhere in the middle of the spectrum between top and bottom. Aiming as
they do to strengthen institutional capacity at the professional and technical
level, they have also attempted in some islands to enhance capabilities at the
community, NGO and school levels.
The need to continue focusing efforts on the
bottom-up approach was clearly illustrated in many of the island workshops.
In St. Kitts, the construction of a seawall, which restricted access
along the beach during a seasonal erosion episode, resulted in considerable
concern and debate about a lack of transparency and public involvement in the
permitting and approval process. Ways to give islanders a voice and a role in
the management of their resources must continue to be sought, as one workshop
participant in the Turks and Caicos Islands asked ‘Where can the public
express their viewpoints on issues such as these (in
reference to a dredging permit)?’
Yet efforts directed at the bottom-up approach
should not dilute efforts at the top-down approach.
In many of the islands, all major, and sometimes too all minor
development decisions are made by the political directorate, with or without the
advice of their technical support staff. Marginalization
of technical agencies, especially planning, was an issue brought out at several
of the island workshops. Thus
innovative ways must be found to provide essential environmental information to
the political and senior administrative level, so as to assist them in the
making of informed decisions. This
will not be a simple or clear-cut task, because while it is relatively easy to
provide training to technical and professional persons through workshops and
other means, time constraints make it impossible to apply similar methods to
politicians and senior administrators. This
was evidenced by the fact that at nearly all the workshops, senior
administrators and ministers were only present for the opening ceremonies.
(The one exception was Anguilla, where several senior administrators and
government ministers remained for the entire morning session). Thus methods
must be found that have continuity and relay the information in a concise,
easily understandable and relevant manner, and which recognize that politicians
have other agendas to consider besides the environmental one.
6.5 From Local to Regional to Global Levels
There does not as yet exist any formal mechanism
for reporting environmental monitoring results to a central agency; this is an
area that merits further consideration. With
many aid agencies basing their monetary assistance solely on economic indicators
such as gross domestic product (GDP), incorporating environmental indicators
such as the loss/reduction in size of an island’s beaches because of a
particularly severe hurricane or as a result of inappropriate coastal
construction, might go some way towards providing
a more realistic picture of an island’s true state of development.
Similarly, there is no mechanism within the
sub-region for exchanging information about beach management issues.
For example, after Hurricane Lenny, several islands were considering
offshore dredging to replace eroded beaches, but did not know where to turn to
for advice, apart from coastal engineering firms.
Yet there exists a wealth of hands-on experience about such activities in
a number of islands, e.g. Anguilla, British Virgin Islands, St. Lucia. Establishing a focused, electronic list for sharing such
information regionally could provide for information exchange and practical
advice. While the region faces many
limitations with e-mail and Internet access, these should improve in the future
and should not deter the start of such an information exchange network.
Moving beyond the regional level to the global level, small island developing states and island-territories all over the world face similar problems relating to sustainable development and environmental management. Exchanging information globally is yet another way to benefit from the experiences of others in similar situations. However, in order for such exchanges to be maximized and not too time consuming, they have to be focused, for instance the global forum on ‘Wise Coastal Practices for Sustainable Human Development’ (user name = csi, password = wise) moderated by UNESCO’s Coasts and Small Islands platform seeks to define, assess and implement wise coastal management practices.