Environment and development
in coastal regions and in small islands
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Coastal region and small island papers 2


Haiti’s coasts – the pilot project

This session started with a hard-hitting summary of the impacts and degradation suffered by the coastal environment, impacts that for some resources go back to over 200 years. Some of the points raised were also confirmed from recent field work conducted in the study region. Also highlighted was the very great resource potential of the coastal region, particularly if it were better managed.

Resource inventory as an input to management and monitoring is an important starting point and, although Project Route 2004 focused more on resource inventory for tourism development purposes, the presentation clearly illustrated how modern technology can quickly and accurately provide these data. This is an approach to be adopted for the pilot project.

Within the study area, three zones were identified. A central, heavily farmed area where issues of land tenure may have already been largely settled and, within the limits of the techniques used, sustainability is not influenced by land ownership. On either side of this area are two large resources (marine and mountain) that are largely common property, open access resources, where the pressures for conservation are much reduced because of uncontrolled competition. Resolving property right issues in these zones will be fundamental to developing management and habitat restoration programs.

There is also much that is unknown in the area regarding resource use that needs to be addressed. Which areas are exploited and by whom, what are the current rates of exploitation, what are the community profiles of the resource users, and what is the socio-economic framework within which resource exploitation occurs?

Discussions also focused on the village of Luly and its potential as the location of the pilot project due to the fact that the local fishermen are fairly well organized, it is located in a ‘representative’ area of the Haitian coastal zone, and the area currently has the country’s highest concentration of coastal tourism activities.

The project must address: over-fishing, loss of biodiversity, the stopping of sedimentation and nutrient pollution from sewage contamination and coastal erosion problems. A serious review must be made of alternative types of employment for local inhabitants in order to provide increased income and to aid in their social and economic development. Projects such as community-based tourism may be appropriate and the scope of the project needs to be defined.

UNESCO coastal projects: CARICOMP and COSALC

During a discussion regarding the identification of possible CARICOMP and COSALC sites for Haiti, it was decided to adhere to the recommendation of the FoProBiM that an initial site be established at Trou Forban. Reasons for this included a lack of equipment and of trained personnel and the fact that FoProBiM is already working in that area. It was also agreed that Quisqueya University should play a role.

Haiti’s involvement in the regional programmes was agreed by everyone to be of utmost importance. The question was one of timing. It was decided that, although there is an apparent lack of trained individuals, monitoring should commence anyway in order to at least begin gathering some baseline data. A slow and cautious approach to the project was recommended. The question has been raised as to whether UNESCO could support some activities of the implementing institution, possibly through extra-budgetary funding.

Haitian counterpart institutions

Among the entities represented at this meeting, two expressed interest in participation in CARICOMP and COSALC activities: FoProBiM and Quisqueya University. The former is headed by a marine biologist, Jean Wiener, and has access to boats and diving equipment. It has office space, transport, a large team of volunteers, and wishes to work in monitoring the coastal environment.

Quisqueya University does not yet have a coastal programme, but is interested in developing one over the long term and, for this reason, would like to be associated with coastal studies.

Many institutions will need to be incorporated in an ICM programme. Questions were raised as to how best to develop these institutions and use them to their greatest potential.

Study sites

Over the next few years, FoProBiM will be working in the Arcahaie area and is also an advocate for the establishment of a CARICOMP site there. There are some small fringing mangroves, with seagrasses off-shore of them, both of which may be important fish nurseries. Other important seagrass beds can be found at Les Arcadins. Fringing coral reefs are found in the northern part of the area.

Larger mangrove forests are found further north (Artibonite River outlet, and north-eastern Haiti) and along the southern peninsula (Ile à Vache, and Baie de Baradères). These might make good CARICOMP and COSALC sites, but are much less accessible from Port-au-Prince. Perhaps the Baie de Baradères could be worked in collaboration with volunteers from Les Cayes.

Coastal problems

The lack of scientific data relevant to the coasts was stressed. This has several important implications for the future management of the coastal environment in at least three domains.

  1. Biological: Most marine animals, in their juvenile stages, are dispersed and develop in the surface and sub-surface waters. How currents affect their dispersal is important in the study of the life history of exploited animals.
  2. Waste disposal: At present most wastes end up in the sea. What happens to them once they reach the sea is unknown. The planning of adequate waste disposal can only be done with a good understanding of water circulation.
  3. Run-off: Currently river discharge has two impacts, i.e. increased sedimentation and increased freshwater input. An understanding of what happens to this freshwater is important in addressing its impact, monitoring and management.
Polluted beach in downtown Port-au-Prince
with the commercial port in the background

Photo M. Steyaert

Underground water

Freshwater is a valuable but limited resource. There is a long history to land degradation in Haiti and its influence on the freshwater resources of the country, an influence that still has a major impact on the replenishment rates of underground aquifers. It is unclear what level of ongoing monitoring is taking place, and there is a need to collect data on rainfall monitoring, river flows, pollution and salt intrusion. Problems regarding the computer modeling package were mentioned. Comments were made regarding lack of management caused by inter-agency conflicts, failure to consult the Ministry of Agriculture concerning developments that affect water resources, lack of control regarding illegal extraction and inappropriate development within water catchment areas. There are too many agencies with authority over water resources; a single agency should be identified and placed in charge.

Socio-economic development and institutional policy

The two presentations from the Dominican Republic and Jamaica highlighted very different approaches to the management of coastal resources, i.e. enforcement with inputs from the military (top down) or from the people (bottom-up). One addresses fisheries specifically and the other does not. Both seem to be developing and working although the institutional elements for implementation are very different and are, of necessity, country-specific.

There is another level of institutional policy that was highlighted – the facilitating role that the central government plays in improving resource management. This role was mentioned by several speakers and fishers in Luly, but was not well developed. In the Dominican Republic a national council plays the role of a coordinating and enforcement mechanism, whereas in Jamaica it appears that the facilitating role is currently evolving.

In Luly, the local fishers are represented by two organizations; this social cohesion lends itself to the promotion of resource management. However, there are many resource users who are not represented. The development of additional fishing organizations in the region as well as associations for the other unrepresented resource users would constitute an integral component in the development of a bottom-up approach. It was agreed that economic development based on tourism would be a key factor in helping to man-age area resources.

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