in coastal regions and in small islands
CSI info 15
Shorelines are areas of
continuous change where the natural forces of wind and water interact with the
land. Here, both natural forces
such as storms and hurricanes, and human activities such as sand mining and
construction too close to the beach, result in changes, which are often dramatic
in nature. Such changes have taken
on paramount importance in the Caribbean islands since tourism has become one of
the major industries. Statistics
show that for the last two decades tourism has been the only steady growth
industry in the region (Patullo,
1996). Yet all too often, shorelines, and
particularly beaches, one of the main reasons visitors come to the Caribbean,
are regarded as permanent features of the landscape requiring little in the way
of special management.
Besides tourism, Caribbean
beaches are highly valued by island residents for relaxation, sports and simple
enjoyment. They represent an
important part of islanders’ natural heritage and also provide areas for fish
landing sites and fulfil the role of flexible barriers protecting valuable land
and infrastructure during storms and hurricanes. Furthermore, in many islands,
beaches and dunes are used as a source of construction sand.
Photograph 1. A Caribbean beach:
beauty awaiting development.
Against this background, a project,
entitled ‘Institutional Strengthening of Beach Management Capabilities in the
of Eastern Caribbean States 1 (OECS) and the
Turks and Caicos Islands’ was executed through a cooperation agreement between
Caribbean Development Bank (CDB) and the
United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).
The project focuses on one specific aspect of management, namely the monitoring
of physical changes in beaches, and seeks to strengthen in-country capability
to analyse and interpret beach change data, and apply it to the planning and
management of beach resources. For
this purpose, specially designed software (‘Beach Profile Analysis’) has been
prepared (through a grant from the
University of Puerto Rico Sea Grant College Program’s (UPR-SGCP) Multi-Programme
and Regional Development sector). This
project provided for the installation of the software in the environmental and
planning agencies in the countries/territories, training in the use of the
and awareness workshops. The island countries/territories, covered by the project,
now have the skills and knowledge to analyse and interpret their beach-monitoring
results, and to apply the information to ensure the effective management of
beach erosion phenomena.
project builds on
the foundations laid by another initiative: the ‘Coast and Beach Stability in
the Caribbean’ project (COSALC), established by UNESCO
in 1985, and
administered by UNESCO’s platform for ‘Environment and Development in
Coastal Regions and in Small Islands’ (CSI) since 1996, together with the
UPR-SGCP (since 1994). This initiative responded to
regional concerns about beach erosion and its effects on tourism, by developing
in-country capabilities so that island states could measure and assess their own
beach resources within an overall framework of integrated coastal management.
The main focus was on monitoring and managing the physical changes in beaches,
e.g. erosion and accretion, and establishing and maintaining beach-monitoring programmes using
Besides the OECS and the Turks and Caicos Islands, the
COSALC project includes
Haiti, the San Andres Archipelago of Colombia and the United States Virgin
Islands. However, by the end of the
1990s, while beach monitoring had become an accepted activity in islands covered
by the COSALC project, most of the data analysis and interpretation was carried
out by the COSALC Coordinating Centre at the
In order to make the beach-monitoring activities sustainable, there was a
need to provide the islands with further training and skills-transference in
data analysis, interpretation and application, hence the need for the CDB-UNESCO
Since 2000, the COSALC
project has been renamed: ‘Managing
beach resources and planning for coastline change, Caribbean islands’, and
while retaining the focus on physical changes in beaches, the perspective has
been broadened to include other aspects, such as coastal planning guidelines
(building setback distances), awareness and education components. (Appendix
I contains a summary of the COSALC
As a result of the COSALC project
and this present CDB-UNESCO
project, many islands now
have significant beach change databases covering more than five years and in a
few cases more than ten years. This
is a critical quantitative record showing the results of natural factors such as
hurricanes, and human activities such as sand mining.
Such data sets represent a solid foundation on which to base future
decisions concerning beach conservation, coastal development and tourism
activities. The temporal scale of the data sets also illustrates the commitment
of the islands to beach change monitoring, which is now an accepted activity,
whereas ten to fifteen years ago this was not the case.
The databases are also being incorporated
into other ongoing projects. For
instance discussions are underway with the
Global Environment Facility (GEF) project ‘Caribbean
Planning for Adaptation to Climate Change’ (CPACC) to include the COSALC
beach change database in their Coastal Resources Information System (CRIS).
Similarly, the Organization
of American States and the
US Agency for International Development (OAS-USAID), through the
Post-Georges Disaster Mitigation project, used the beach change databases
in Antigua and Barbuda and St. Kitts and Nevis to develop beach erosion hazard
maps based on geographical information systems (GIS), (James,
2001a and b,
These maps are available on the Web
(follow the hazard mapping links).
gained from this CDB-UNESCO
project are also being incorporated into the wider framework of the UNESCO
‘Wise Coastal Practices
for Sustainable Human Development’ (WiCoP) Internet-based discussion forum
(user name = csi, password = wise). This
forum seeks to develop a comprehensive set of wise practices, which together
with field-based activities will form the basis for the elaboration of ethical
codes of practice tailored for specific domains, which in turn will promote
equitable resource sharing in small islands and coastal regions.
Several of the forum contributions relate to beach management issues
such as those discussed in this report, and one of the recent contributions,
which reports on ways to reduce coastal conflicts, is a direct outcome of this
project ( see ‘Planning
measures need the support of all/Anguilla’ by Sharon Roberts-Hodge; user
name = csi, password = wise).
The timing of this CDB-UNESCO project was extremely opportune, for shortly after the commencement of project activities, Hurricane Lenny, one of the most destructive hurricanes to affect the eastern Caribbean islands in the 20th century, caused massive coastal erosion along the leeward coasts of the islands from Grenada to Anguilla (November, 1999).
The project was divided into two
phases. The first phase covered the period 1 October, 1999 to 30
April 2000, and was the subject of an Interim Report (Cambers,
During this phase, visits were made to all the islands, the software
was installed and training activities conducted.
During Phase 2, which ran from 1 May 2000 to 2
February 2001, the training activities were evaluated, consolidated and
expanded; and, together with island partners, awareness workshops on ‘Wise
Coastal Practices for Beach Management’ were conducted in nine islands.
following Chapters 2 and 3 of this report describe the project objectives
and terms of reference; and the methodology.
The results of the beach-monitoring capacity-building activities are then
discussed, firstly from an overall perspective, then from an island-by-island
viewpoint (Chapter 4). Issues arising from the workshops on ‘Wise Coastal
Practices for Beach Management’ are presented in Chapter 5. This is followed
by a discussion chapter (Chapter 6) focusing on beach-monitoring activities within the
framework of integrated coastal management.
The final Chapter 7 of the report contains conclusions and
1 The nine OECS countries/ territories are: Anguilla, Antigua and Barbuda, British Virgin Islands, Dominica, Grenada, Montserrat, St. Kitts and Nevis, St. Lucia, St. Vincent and the Grenadines. For the purposes of this project, St. Kitts and Nevis have been treated as two individual islands, since the constitution of the Federation of St. Kitts-Nevis allows for separate government agencies in each island