Environment and development
in coastal regions and in small islands

CSI info 15


The terms of reference for this project (Chapter 2) specified that one-day workshops on the utilization of the beach change databases should be held in each island. Following Phase 1 activities, it was decided to widen the scope of these workshops to include not only beach-monitoring and the beach change databases, but also other aspects of beach management.  The title selected for these one-day workshops was ‘Wise Coastal Practices for Beach Management.’ The focus on ‘wise’ practices ensured a proactive agenda. 

Awareness workshops for participants from government and non-governmental agencies, and from civil society, were held in nine of the eleven countries/territories.  (Workshops were not held in the British Virgin Islands or St. Lucia because the timing was not opportune and/or those countries/territories had other priorities during the project timeframe). 

The workshops achieved two goals: firstly they highlighted the existence, nature and results of the beach-monitoring activities in each island, and secondly they initiated a dialogue about beach management practices, ranging from appropriate beach erosion mitigation techniques to the need for public access to the beach, and from water pollution concerns to beach sand mining.  In some islands, the workshops have led to specific plans for future action. 

The workshops also provided an opportunity for capacity building such that representatives from island agencies compiled and presented the results of their beach change monitoring programmes to a wider audience, and then responded to questions.  In some cases (Anguilla, Antigua and Barbuda, Dominica, Nevis, Turks and Caicos Islands), papers and/or handouts on the beach change databases/results were prepared for the workshop participants by the main partner agency.  The workshops also provided a forum such that other agencies and individuals became fully aware of the work being done in beach-monitoring and its potential application to sound beach and coastal planning. 

This chapter presents a sub-regional overview of the workshop discussions.  While this goes beyond the original terms of reference for this CDB-UNESCO project, it is included in this report because it presented a unique, and possibly a first if its kind, opportunity to examine the topic of beach management in nine islands within a five month period. It may also provide a sub-regional framework for future action in beach management. 

The workshop programmes, lists of participants and their organisations, as well as the highlights of each workshop, are itemised individually in Appendix V

5.1 Nature of the Workshops 

Standardized outlines for the workshop programme were sent to each island, and the partner agency then modified the programme according to the island’s individual needs, and made the necessary arrangements - contacting speakers, inviting participants, arranging a venue, etc. 

While the overall goal was to include persons from government and non-governmental organizations, as well as from the private sector and the general public, the actual composition of workshop participants, and total numbers, varied considerably from island to island  (see Appendix V).  In addition, workshops were held at different times of the day, for instance in Carriacou and Bequia, they were held in the evenings, so that persons working all day could attend.  For the purposes of this overview, the participants for each island were grouped into two categories according to whether they represented government agencies or civil society (the latter group including non-governmental organizations, the private sector and the general public), and a criterion of 70% from one group represented a majority, see Table 3. 

Table 3. Categorisation of island workshops according to the participants’ affiliations 

Government majority  
(>70% of the participants from government agencies)
Civil society majority  
(>70% of the participants from civil society: non-governmental organisations/ private sector/general public)
Mixture of government representatives and civil society
Antigua and Barbuda,
St. Kitts
Bequia (St. Vincent and the Grenadines)
Carriacou (Grenada Grenadines),
Turks and Caicos Islands

5.2 Findings of the Workshops 

Beaches in these islands are important resources for islanders and tourists.  In regard to tourists, the workshop in the Turks and Caicos Islands highlighted the fact that a recent visitor survey had shown that 71% of the respondents said that beaches were their primary reason for visiting the territory.  However, the grouping ‘islanders’ is not homogeneous, representing a wide cross-section of people, all with different interests in the beaches, e.g. hotel owners, beachfront land owners, coastal communities, fishers, boat owners, water sports instructors, sand miners, truckers, persons who visit the beach for recreation, government representatives, business persons, etc.  Because of the small size of the eastern Caribbean islands and their growing populations, beach resources are limited, leading to many conflicts, some of which were highlighted in the workshops. 

5.2.1 Nature of the Conflicts 

The conflicts highlighted in the workshops were between different user groups: 

Furthermore, these conflicts between different user groups were compounded by two factors: 

Conflicts between developers and beach-user groups were clearly described in St. Kitts where in three cases new developments had forced fishers to abandon beaches they had traditionally used for fishing.  While in the Turks and Caicos Islands, an ongoing conflict between beach vendors wishing to sell their goods to the tourists on the beach, and hotel managers who wanted to keep the vendors away from their guests on the beaches, was discussed. 

Conflicts between coastal landowners and the public over the right of access to the beach were the major concern of workshop participants in the Turks and Caicos Islands. Developments had encroached on public access lanes and in some cases developers/individuals had deliberately blocked the lanes. Thus a privilege that islanders had always taken for granted, the right to go to the beach, was being eroded.  Furthermore they sometimes felt like ‘intruders’ on beaches adjacent to large hotels.  Similar concerns about the loss of public beach access and inadequate parking facilities were voiced in other islands e.g. Anguilla, Antigua and Barbuda, and Nevis. 

Conflicts between sand mining operators and beach users were discussed in several islands. In Montserrat, participants noted that sand mining was not compatible with the principle of sustainability, especially given that there were so few beaches remaining accessible to islanders in the ‘safe zone’ of the island.  In Carriacou, participants described how graves were disappearing into the sea as a direct result of sand mining, and they called for a stop to the mining and the use of imported sand.  Similarly in the Turks and Caicos Islands, where sand supply has become critical as a result of the rapid development, a call was made to import sand from the Bahamas, which has a number of (biologically) sterile sand banks. While on the other hand, in Barbuda, which does export sand from an inland site, and which tries to follow environmental guidelines in the mining operation, the revenue from sand export provides a third of the Barbuda Council’s operating budget.  Even though much of Barbuda’s sand export goes to the sister island of Antigua, the illegal mining of beaches in Antigua is still a major problem.  The inadequacies of beach sand as a building material, especially when not properly washed, were emphasised in the Turks and Caicos Islands. 

Conflicts between coastal property owners protecting their land from the sea and beach users were also a cause for concern in several islands.  It was recognised in Dominica, that the proliferation and expansion of seawalls was resulting in the loss of beaches for recreation, turtle nesting areas, crab habitat, and was disrupting fishers who were used to hauling up their boats on the beaches; the use of alternative erosion mitigation methods was the subject of discussion.  While in Nevis, where an alternative measure, namely offshore breakwaters combined with dredging and beach nourishment, was being implemented at one beach, there was considerable concern about the effects of the dredging on neighbouring beaches.  Damage to coral reefs as a result of dredging was discussed in Bequia, and serious doubts were voiced as to the likely success of future beach nourishment projects there. 

Conflicts between persons dumping solid and other waste at the beach or inland and beach users were major concerns in several islands.  In Carriacou, this was the major issue of debate in the workshop, and concerns included the use of beaches as a dumping ground for garbage including dead animals, the use of beaches as bathrooms, and solid and liquid waste being transported via the ghuts to the beaches and the sea.  In Dominica it was noted that there was a need to change attitudes to rubbish disposal, since rubbish dumped inland eventually ended up at the beach.  As one participant mentioned ‘The coastline is an eyesore with ravines of garbage.’ 

Two factors were accentuating these conflicts in many islands: political control of the planning process and inadequate and ambiguous environmental legislation. 

Political control of the planning process was a concern voiced in many islands including Anguilla, Montserrat, Nevis, St. Kitts and the Turks and Caicos Islands.  In Anguilla, for instance, it was pointed out that in the present planning process, appeals relating to decisions made by the Development Control Board are referred to Executive Council, and that 90% of the appeals go against the recommendations of the Department of Physical Planning.  In the workshop in the Turks and Caicos Islands, examples were provided where development decisions never went to planning or environmental agencies for technical advice.  Similarly it was pointed out in St. Kitts that planning decisions are being made by the political directorate with little or no technical input, and as a result the physical planning process is becoming increasingly marginalized. In Montserrat, reference was made to the ‘five year syndrome’ or the incompatibility between the political time scale (usually four or five years in these islands) and the longer term planning timeframe. 

Inadequate and ambiguous environmental legislation was cited as reason for much of the conflict over beach resources.  For instance in Antigua, the legal definition of a beach causes major problems for the enforcement of sand mining legislation, and the low levels of fines provide little deterrent.  Similar problems exist in other islands, e.g. in the Turks and Caicos Islands, where the legislation is unclear over the issue of public access to the beach.  In Nevis and Dominica, reference was made to the lack of enforcement of existing laws, e.g. the litter laws. 

5.2.2  Conflict Resolution 

While there was insufficient time to examine this subject in detail in workshops of only one day’s duration, some interesting insights did emerge that warrant further examination in the future. 

During the workshop in the Turks and Caicos Islands, one participant put forward the statement: ‘In small islands, where tourism is the main income-earner, inevitably environmental issues take backstage.’  While this is undoubtedly true at the present time, the question must be asked ‘Must it always be this way?’ 

Providing for the equitable sharing of beach resources 

Resolving the conflicts discussed in the workshops will, in the long term, require mechanisms to be put in place for the equitable sharing of beach resources.  This idea was voiced in different ways in the workshops, such as developing a sense of civic pride, coastal stewardship and ethical considerations.  

Installing a sense of civic pride was one of the main challenges identified in Antigua, where it was stated that a general sense of apathy and a ‘so what’ attitude prevails.  Similarly in Dominica, the need for individuals to have a personal commitment to the benefit of their country was voiced.  It was recognised that in many cases this would involve sacrificing individual gains or benefits for the greater good of the community or island.  

The concept of coastal stewardship was voiced in different terms in the workshops.  In Nevis it was pointed out that the coastal zone is the area of highest risk and the area of highest financial investment.  Added to these factors is the issue of public rights to the coast, particularly the beach.  Thus the management of the coast should not be solely dictated by financial considerations, rather an approach based on coastal stewardship should be adopted.  In a similar vein, the participants in the Dominica workshop recognized, that while beaches should be well managed and promoted as part of the overall ecotourism product, the primary goal of beach management should be for the benefit of islanders, thus reinforcing the idea that financial considerations (tourism) should not be the only ones considered. In Carriacou it was recommended that everyone needs to be a coastal steward in order to get the necessary coastal information across. Thus the ideas being voiced behind stewardship were for islanders to take a collective responsibility, and for every individual to play a role in the implementation of wise coastal practices, which should not necessarily be dominated by financial goals. 

Ethical considerations were voiced in Montserrat, where it was suggested that since beaches belong to everyone, it was not ethical for the government to take away that right of national ownership by allowing beach sand mining. 

However, this concept of the ‘equitable sharing of resources’ is not going to be easy to convey or accept.  In the Turks and Caicos Islands’ workshop it was noted that there may sometimes be cases where it is no longer feasible to protect certain areas from coastal erosion, thus the only option is to let them be eroded by the sea. One participant in Bequia stated that ‘The hardest thing to come to terms with is that some hotels will end up not having a beach.’ 

            Tools for conflict resolution 

In the St. Kitts workshop, one participant, in discussing how to resolve conflicts between fishers and new development, suggested that the use of education, dialogue, co-management and clearly defined agency responsibilities and guidelines could reduce such conflicts.  These suggestions were echoed in several other islands, and are discussed below, under the following headings: 

The need for improved education and awareness was cited in several islands. As was noted in St. Kitts, the only way to reduce the marginalization of the physical planning process was through education and public involvement.  In order to achieve this, NGOs would have to adopt a ‘watchdog’ role through their members, and a free press is essential in this respect.  Several islands, including Anguilla, Bequia and St. Kitts suggested the use of videos to demonstrate wise and unwise practices.  In Montserrat, the use of the Internet to bring public pressure to bear on a political decision to mine sand from an important turtle-nesting beach, resulted in a reversal of the decision.  In fact one of the recommendations from the Montserrat workshop was to undertake a widespread sensitization campaign about the sand mining issues.  The need to extend such efforts to tourists was noted in Anguilla and Carriacou, in particular so that they accept a natural-looking beach vista (with seaweed and seagrass), rather than a perfectly manicured beach. 

Community responsibility for beaches was a topic taken up for discussion in Antigua and Barbuda, where it was suggested that this was one way to generate civic pride.  It was suggested that there were many staunch environmentalists at the community level, but the problem was how to unite these individuals to make a difference. Suggestions such as community beach clean-ups and ‘best kept beach’ competitions were ideas discussed in Dominica.  The importance of beaches in the family structure was described in Montserrat where beaches are considered a place for family bonding. 

The need for improved coordination among agencies and the clear definition of agency responsibilities was noted in several islands: Anguilla, Antigua and Barbuda, Dominica, Nevis and St. Kitts.  The need to share information among agencies, e.g. beach-monitoring data, was emphasized in Antigua and Barbuda, and in Bequia, where one of the workshop recommendations resulted in a presentation about the beach-monitoring to a meeting organized by the Tourist Board.  Strengthening existing organizations and/or creating new agencies for coastal management was discussed in Dominica, Nevis and St. Kitts. In many islands new legislation, regulations and plans have been in the pipeline, awaiting government approval for many years, e.g. a land-use development plan in Anguilla, beach regulations in St. Kitts, fisheries regulations in Dominica, these need to be brought to the front of the queue and passed into law. 

Proactive approaches to Planning were thought to be another way to reduce conflicts.  This was suggested in relation to sand mining in St. Kitts and to beach erosion in Nevis, so that instead of just reacting to crisis situations, agencies had prepared well-designed strategies in advance.  In St. Kitts and Dominica, zoning plans for beaches were suggested as ways to reduce conflicts, while in Nevis, preparations for a coastal management plan were scheduled to start by the end of 2000.  Although perhaps the crux of the issue was identified in Anguilla, where it was stated that more public involvement in the planning process is needed.

Implementation of adequate coastal development setbacks was identified as one of the planning mechanisms that would help reduce some of the conflicts.  The difficulties of enforcing such measures in the political climate were discussed in Anguilla and in Antigua and Barbuda.  The need to increase existing setback distances was noted in the Turks and Caicos Islands and Dominica, and in the latter island one participant noted that ‘Hurricane Lenny was a blessing in disguise’ since this event clearly showed the public there was a need for such measures. 

Improvement of beach facilities was recognized in many islands as a way to better utilize the resources. Suggestions included developing beach-rating systems (St. Kitts) such as the European Blue Flag system (Antigua and Barbuda). The concept of carrying capacity and limits to numbers of users was discussed in the Turks and Caicos Island and in Carriacou (in relation to Sandy Island, a vulnerable offshore cay).  Water quality was another concern voiced in the Turks and Caicos Islands, and pollution from yachts was identified as an issue in Bequia. 

5.3  Future Directions

Many of the ideas and proposals for conflict resolution that were voiced in the workshops, are preliminary and require further discussion, elaboration and refinement, through dialogue, meetings and Internet-based discussion forum, such as the WiCoP forum described in Chapter 1.  As a follow-up activity, UNESCO-CSI held an inter-regional workshop on ‘Furthering Coastal Stewardship in Small Islands’ in Dominica, 4-6 July 2001, to further advance some of these issues, in particular those relating to the equitable sharing of resources. 

Obviously a first step is to share information by ensuring that workshop reports are circulated to the participants and the relevant branches of government.  Reports have already been prepared and distributed in some islands, e.g. Anguilla and Dominica.  In other islands, e.g. Bequia, beach erosion issues discussed at the workshop, were presented to the Tourism Association at a subsequent meeting. It was particularly interesting to note that the Turks and Caicos Islands planned to publish the workshop papers and discussions and to use them as the basis for a framework beach management plan to be discussed with the political directorate in mid-2001.  In all cases, specific outcomes from the workshops have been identified and are being pursued.  These are described in the relevant appendices.  They range from plans to hold decentralized workshops on ‘Wise Coastal Practices for Beach Management’ in Dominica, to an education and awareness campaign about beach sand mining in Montserrat. 

While each island is unique and has a multitude of different ideas for a way forward, the general framework can perhaps best be summarized in a quotation from the Nevis workshop ‘An educated public can adpot wise beach management practices.’


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