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Second Regional Sandwatch Project Workshop, 7-9th July 2003

Sandwatch: saving our nation's beaches
by Shirvan Williams

The greatest threat to the beaches of T&T is man, said Andy Paul, co-ordinator of ASPNet, at Mayaro Government Primary School.

"Pollution caused by man is definitely the greatest threat to our beaches. Man is destroying his own environment," he said.

He was speaking to a class of about 40 boys and girls between the ages of eight and 12, who have decided to dedicate their time to saving the nation's beaches.

The determined youths plan to do this through the Sandwatch Project, which began on July 1.

Paul said they plan to monitor the country's beaches, starting with Plaisance Beach in Mayaro.

"We will do this in three phases. Phase one is to monitor beach erosion and beach accretion (growth of the beach by the accumulation of sand or other material), as well as human acts on the beach and the amount of debris on the beach.

"Phase two will be beach beautification, and stage three is collecting all the data so that it can be assessed by UNESCO, the Government and any other agency that has an interest in nature," Paul explained.

The information can also be used by companies that want to build on a particular beach, he said.

"Based on the data that we have collected, we will determine if we are losing or getting more beach. If someone is building anywhere on the beachfront, we will be able to tell them whether or not it makes sense to build," he said.

Mayaro Government is the only school in the country carrying out such a project, Paul said proudly.

But through Sandwatch, which is being sponsored by UNESCO, it is not the first time these children are being involved with the environment.

"Since 2002 we have been trying to help nature. Since then we had many clean-up activities in the community," he said.

The group got its start after an environmental contest was held at the school and the winners got a trip to Tobago, he disclosed, saying:

"That was the genesis of the whole club. The competition was creative writing, art and craft about the environment. When the winners went to Tobago we looked at the Buccoo Reef and what affected the survival of coral."

After that, Paul said, the school saw a need for students to focus on environmental issues and so they joined with the ASPnet.

He plans to incorporate some of the Sandwatch project into the regular school curriculum. It helps children to learn, he believes, because of the amount of practical work.

"We hope to integrate the project into the regular school curriculum like maths graphs about what was measured at the beach."

"It is making science come alive. They use dyes, for example, to help determine current flow. We teach the children what a beach is and show them how to test the water quality," he said.

The young participants will also learn to take care of the beaches, he added.

"This programme will teach the children through practical learning to put things in place to protect the beach. The ultimate hope is that these children will recognise the need to protect the environment."

They need to, he thinks, because Government is not doing enough.

"Look at all our beach fronts. Everybody doing what they want. That is the problem in most Caribbean countries. There are no facilities on the beach and the beaches are so dirty."

Paul also says the Ministry of Education is not as involved as it should be.

"We are pleading with the government for greater support and more so the Ministry of Education.We are of the view that the ministry doesn't really understand the nature of the Sandwatch programme. We need equipment like more computers to store our information. When we collect our data we have to e-mail the information up to UNESCO. Right now we have two computers at the school that are always occupied."

This is only one of the group's many needs.

"We need an Abney level, which is used to measure the gradient of the beach. All the equipment we have, we had to beg for," he said.

Two of the children involved also shared their view about the Sandwatch project.

Vice president of the group, 10-year-old Saleem Ali, said: "People pollute the beaches and this is not good for tourists from other countries who come to visit. Their country is clean, maybe, and they will feel to go home when they find the place is dirty.

"I like the Sandwatch project because it helps to keep the beach clean."

The assistant secretary, 11-year-old Sade Forgnie , said she enjoys the project because she gets a chance to help clean up the beaches.

"I like to help clean the beachfront. We have already learned to measure the level of the water and current flow.

"It is a good way to experience different places in the Caribbean," she said.

Trinidad Guardian, 4th August 2003


To get involved, contact :


Ms. Gloria Shillingford
UNESCO National Commission for the Commonwealth of Dominica
Ministry of Education
Government Headquarter
Roseau, Dominica
T: +1 767 449 9059
F: + 1 767 448 0644


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