in coastal regions and in small islands
CSI info 15
|5.||ISSUES ARISING FROM THE WORKSHOPS ON ‘WISE COASTAL PRACTISES FOR BEACH MANAGEMENT’|
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
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
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.
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,
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.
3. Categorisation of island workshops according to the participants’
(>70% of the participants from government agencies)
(>70% of the participants from civil society: non-governmental organisations/ private sector/general public)
of government representatives and civil society
Bequia (St. Vincent and the Grenadines)
Carriacou (Grenada Grenadines),
Turks and Caicos Islands
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.
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,
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
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
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
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
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
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.’
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.
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
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.’