Fadil Imo and Kennedy Pemberton (from St. Kitts and Nevis)

From St. Kitts and Nevis) submit winning essays on sustainable development and participate in the Youth Visioning for Island Living event in Mauritius in January 2005

Evaluate the environmental challenges and implications for the sustainable future of Small Island Developing States.

Date: July 31, 2004

Prepared by:
Fadil Imo,
President,
St. Kitts National Youth Parliament Association,
P.O.Box 1834, Basseterre, St. Kitts

 

The threat to human existence that is posed by the degradation of our surroundings was forcefully brought to the attention of several nations at the Stockholm Conference on the Environment in 1972. In 1987 participants at the World Commission on Environment and Development (Brundtland Commission) desired to establish mechanisms which would promote and establish environmentally friendly development schemes. It was at this commission that the term 'sustainable development' which was defined as, "Development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs," was introduced. Five years later at the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (the Earth Summit) in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, over 150 Heads of State negotiated and agreed upon a global action plan for sustainable development called Agenda 21.

The moot of this paper is to, "Evaluate the environmental challenges and implications for the sustainable future of Small Island Developing States (S.I.D.S.)." However, before any in depth document can be produced some key words of the moot must be defined. The New Webster's Comprehensive Dictionary Deluxe Edition defines 'evaluate' as "to determine or judge the value or worth of any entity." The same source defines 'environment' as, "the physical factors of our surrounding that prolongs life or influences its quality such as water, land, climate, plants and animals." The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition, 2000, defines 'challenge' as, "a test of one's ability in a demanding but stimulating undertaking". Implication is defined as, "a meaning or consequence implied by any action or statement" by www.investorwords.com. The New Webster's Comprehensive Dictionary Deluxe Edition defines sustainable as "any practice or element that can prevent the falling of, collapsing or deterioration of a plan, activity or surrounding." Paraphrased the moot now reads, Judge the ability of Small Island Developing States to address the test of preventing the collapse of their physical surroundings and present the meanings or consequences of doing so.

In order to objectively evaluate the environmental challenges which confront SIDS, a clear picture of the current situation must be painted. It has been stated that the level of environmental deterioration which has occurred is the dreadful outcome of global warming and climate change. Global warming occurs when greenhouse gases (GHGs) like carbon dioxide and methane (that are emitted when fossil fuels such as diesel and gasoline are burned and when radiation is produced from industrial activities) remain trapped in the earth's atmosphere. These gases are known as greenhouse gases because of their ability to retain heat. The retention of this heat is called the greenhouse effect. The greenhouse effect is and will continue to be a serious threat to the planet as it has led to the augmentation of global temperatures (global warming) which in turn has instigated climatic change and visa versa.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climatic Change (IPCC) was established in 1988 by the United Nations Environmental Program (UNEP) and the World Meteorological Organisation (WMO) to assess the scientific, technical and socio-economic information needed for understanding the risk of human induced climatic change. In 1990 the organisation indicated that the global mean temperature was 2.5 degrees Celsius. Since 1990 up until today, they have realized a steady increase in global temperatures resulting in the melting of polar ice caps, which has led to coastal flooding, coral bleaching and the loss of marine life around the world. Land devastation and degradation resulting from storms, hurricanes, floods and drought can also act as testaments. Discouragingly, it seems as if things will only worsen. The IPCC concluded that concentrations of greenhouse gases could exceed 700ppm by 2100 under the 'business as usual scenario'(at current emission levels) to a level not seen on this planet for 50 million years. The IPCC estimates that by the year 2100 the global mean temperature will rise to 3.5 degrees Celsius. Consequently, sea levels are expected to increase by between 15 to 94 centimeters.

Small Island Developing States must make a concerted effort to reduce and eventually end the usage of fossil fuels which has exacerbated the greenhouse effect and other environmental cankers. Historically, larger more developed countries like the United States of America, France, Japan and others are responsible for the larger proportion of greenhouse gas emissions, but by 2025 developing countries are expected to produce 50% of global emissions. In the Caribbean, the bauxite plants of Jamaica, the sugar factory in St. Kitts and the oil refineries in Trinidad as well as public and private energy providers use fossil fuels.

Chapter nine (9) of Agenda 21 states, " Energy is essential to economic and social development and improved quality of life. Much of the world's energy however is currently produced and consumed in ways that cannot be sustained, if technology were to remain constant and if overall quantity were to increase substantially. The need to control atmospheric emissions of greenhouse gases and other gases and substances will need to be based on efficiency in energy production, transmission, distribution and consumption and on growing reliance on environmentally sound systems , particularly newer and renewable sources of energy." One key term of this quote is 'renewable energy'. Renewable Energy is energy produced by utilizing natural resources such as wind, water (hydro power) and sunshine (solar energy) without producing environmentally unfriendly by-products.

There are two obvious implications of converting to renewable sources. Firstly, the energy produced is clean as opposed to fossil fuels. Consequently, a significant reduction of GHG emissions will occur and stagnate the effects of global warming and climatic change. Secondly, fossil fuels can be depleted whereas wind, sunlight and flowing water are almost inexhaustible. Meaning that, generations to come shall enjoy good, clean, and continuous energy.

In recent times some SIDS have made great strides in their quest to convert to renewable energy sources. In Barbados (Caribbean) the installation of solar powered systems have been utilized to produce ice in fishing villages, lighting for Government Headquarters, Harrison's Cave (a main tourist attraction) and power school computer laboratories. Still in the Caribbean, St.Kitts & Nevis and St.Lucia have recently signed an agreement with the Organisation of American States (O.A.S.) to pursue feasible renewable energy usage as an alternative to fossil fuels. In the Pacific, the United Nations Education, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO), the United Nations Development Program (UNDP), the South Pacific Applied Geo-Science Commission (SOPAC) and the University of the South Pacific (U.S.P.) have assisted Niue in connecting wind-powered grids. They have also supported a national energy plan for Tokelau, and granted technical support to renewable energy projects in El Hierro in the Canary Islands. A little can go a long way, hence if SIDS can envision change as in the case of St.Kitts & Nevis and Canary Islands, execute the change as in the case of Barbados and Niue, the environment will be well on its way to partial recovery.

The conservation and protection of the scarce and fragile resource of land is another critical challenge which SIDS face. The challenge has been perpetuated by a complex combination of poor land management resulting in unplanned and poorly planned human settlement and environmentally incongruous economic development. The migration of citizens from rural areas (where most of the worlds disadvantaged, displaced and poverty stricken reside) to urban locations has led to the overcrowding of towns and cities. Additionally as SIDS aim to create economic stability more domestic and foreign businesses will occupy the already overcrowded towns and cities. In these areas garbage or solid waste disposal is of critical importance because if collection and disposal strategies are not capable of removing the refuse SIDS will suffer from unsightly, odorous, uncomfortable and unhealthy surroundings.

Urbanization, commercial advancement and subsistence farming have given birth to massive housing and infrastructure development initiatives which initially require the clearing of thousands of hectares (deforestation). This practice may lead to soil erosion which can have a multiplier effect. Firstly, the loss of exposed fertile topsoil will have adverse effects on agricultural productivity. Such a loss will bring into question food security concerns especially for agriculturally dependant SIDS. Secondly, the loss of significant carbon storing plants and the loss of habitat for animals is another inevitable consequence of deforestation. Habitat loss and fragmentation has already put many animals in severe decline, resulting in losses of distinct population sizes and losses of genetic diversity which keeps species healthy. Thirdly, as the exposed soil is removed by water due to heavy rainfall and finds its way into river channels, dams and man made drainage systems then eventually to coastal areas, the immediate offshore habitats will be smothered with silt, debris and an array of chemical contaminants (pesticides, fertilizers, and herbicides). Such an occurrence has done immense damage to marine life. Mangrove and coral habitats which act as nurseries for lobsters, crabs and small fish have been decimated, while the loss of coral reefs have decreased coastal protection from high tides.

Another example of poor land and resource management occurs when, "buildings and squatter settlements have been constructed in locations where they lie in close proximity to high level watersheds and in some cases on fertile arable lands" as is stated in , 'Protecting Our Planet, Securing Our Future', which was produced by the UNEP, US NASA, and the World Bank (1997). This can allow for seepage of untreated human sewage into the invaluable underground freshwater supply, while simultaneously reducing availability of arable land for future agricultural purposes.

In a nutshell the challenges posed by poor land management are the losses of freshwater supplies, soil erosion, a reduction in the availability of arable lands, the destruction of forests, the loss of animal life and the contamination of the immediate marine environment. Small Island Developing States must develop the unique techniques to combat these environmental issues.

In the case where deforestation must occur (to satisfy agricultural and infrastructure needs) SIDS must be more proactive and not reactive in their responses. Currently, the reactive practice of replanting fast growing plants and trees to restore forest cover is a predominant corrective measure. Such an undertaking is limited in outcome as the replacement vegetation will only grow at a pace to hold the soil in place, but will take a few hundred years to house animal life. I propose that the governments and people of SIDS and international environmental organisations allocate or purchase lands for conservational purposes.

An illustration of where this was successfully executed is in Cousin Island, Seychelles in the West Indian Ocean. In 1968 the island of 27 hectares was bought by the International Council for Bird Preservation (U.K.) now known as Bird Life International. The government labeled the island as a special reserve under the National Park Act of 1975. Today, the island is hailed as an enviable scientific research location, a unique sustainable tourism product and a paradise of biodiversity. The proactive approach of purchasing with intensions to conserve now earns over US $200,000.00 per year as a sustainable tourism destination, while protecting priceless bird life and natural beauty. More SIDS must mobilize themselves and embark on projects like Cousin Island, and provide the necessary legal, political and social support with a long-term objective of 'conserve and earn'.

Section 54, subsection (c) of Agenda 21 states that SIDS would be provided with support in their, " efforts to reduce and manage waste and pollution and building capacity for maintaining and managing systems to deliver water and sanitation services, in rural and urban areas." The international community must stay committed to these words. Urban and rural development planning can be used to arrest the drift of citizens from rural areas to urban areas by improving the socio-economic and health structures of rural locations. Such an endeavor would require the development of suitable housing, educational facilities, public utilities, solid waste management programs and other adjustments. In the context of urban and rural development freshwater management becomes another pressing matter because by 2025 two-thirds of the world will suffer from severe water stress (UNEP, US NASA, World Bank 1997). If freshwater supplies are to be maintained SIDS must employ the necessary technologies of today. Sewage treatment systems for both private homes and businesses must be made available and utilized to treat effluent waste. By treating the sewage, the harmful bacteria and nitrates are safely removed thus creating 'processed water' which can then be reused for traditional purposes like irrigation, and cleaning. The treated nitrates may also be used to provide cheap and environmentally safe organic fertilizer for farmers. Solid waste management strategies must ensure that routine collection occurs to avoid the build of garbage mountains in both sparsely and densely populated areas. There is also a need to design landfills that allow for the organized disposal as in the case of our Conaree Landfill. Ultimately, land management is dependant upon how SIDS can efficiently allocate lands for specific purposes without jeopardizing other resources. This may be achieved by developing plausible natural resource management and waste disposal strategies, which promotes coordinated equitable and responsible resource usage and maintenance.

The World Bank has stated that, "Fifty percent of the world's population currently lives within sixty kilometers of the coast - at present, more than 3 billion people. By the year 2008, the world population will exceed 6.7 billion people, with 3.4 billion living in coastal areas" (http://lnweb18.worldbank.org/ESSD/envext.nsf/42ByDocName/ CoastalandMarineManagement). Hence the issue of coastal protection is another great environmental concern for SIDS. Coastal degradation by way of sand mining is a serious issue which must be tackled. Sand is a vital raw material for the construction industry as it is used to assist in the construction of homes, schools and hotels. Although these structures are necessary, sand removal is a detrimental practice as it destroys the natural defenses of the coastline against high tides. The defenseless coastal areas are then easily flooded which allows for large-scale beach erosion, destruction of coastal properties (resulting in unsightly coastal locations) and in extreme cases, loss of human life. If SIDS have any intensions of conserving their beaches and coastlines for long-term recreational, tourism and residential purposes they must apply specific preventative measures.

Many states have subscribed to the practice of mining or quarrying onshore sites (mountains and hills) as an alternative to coastal sand mining, this has eased the demand for coastal sand and has set the stage for coastal regeneration. However, I disagree with this practice for two reasons. Firstly, the source is limited in supply (unsustainable) and will demand continuous quarry relocation. Secondly, after the sites are exhausted large craters remain which may have serious health implications, as in the case of Bequia, in St. Vincent and the Grenadines (Caribbean). Where in 1992, an airport was built on reclaimed land and was completed. The immense land based quarrying produced a huge crater that became a prime mosquito breeding ground (NB: mosquitoes are key agents that spread viruses like dengue).

A feasible alternative to both sand mining and quarrying comes from Kosrae, a small island of the Federated States of Micronesia in the North Pacific. In 2000 the Government of Kosrae employed Mr. Douglas Ramsey (a coastal engineer) to assess and forward suggestions to combat sand mining as apart of the Kosrae Shoreline Management Project. The major suggestion was to find and supply aggregate from sources other than beach sand. The use of substitute aggregates in the form of crushed glass and plastics, crushed volcanic rock and demolition debris must be examined. The technology that we possess today far exceeds that of the past. We fly to the moon, research the deepest oceans and now clone living organisms. So what is to prevent us from developing a substitute aggregate which is affordable, sustainable and equal in quality to beach sand. The issue of sand mining can be resolved. How speedily it is resolved depends partly on our global ability to prioritize experimental and scientific programs. Since 1997, " more than two-thirds of the worlds marine fish stocks have been fished at a rate beyond their maximum productivity"(UNEP, US NASA, World Bank 1997). Today, over fishing and severe habitat loss has led to the sharp declines in many species around the world. Action in the forms of fish sanctuaries and coastal aquaculture may act as mechanisms which allow fish stocks to replenish and contribute to the environmental equilibrium of SIDS.

A fish sanctuary as in the case of Samoa (Pacific) is monitored using a tripartite approach where government, the community and non-governmental organisations protect the immediate offshore marine life in specified areas. Fishing, waste disposal, sand mining and other activities such as skiing are legally prohibited. Its outcome is similar to that of the previously mentioned bird sanctuary in Cousin Island, Seychelles because of its rich biodiversity and its self-sustainable ability.

The 2001 Compton's Encyclopedia and Fact-Index defines aqua-culture as, " the growing of plants and animals on land in water for food and other products". The Joint Group of Experts on Scientific Aspects of Marine environmental Protection (GESAMP), report of 2001 states that, " Most inland fish produce is locally consumed, marketed domestically, and contributes to the subsistence and livelihood of poor people".

Additionally, successful research in animal aqua-culture now allows for controlled fish breeding, which can be used to supply large quantities of fish. The feature of controlled breeding can be used to reduce the need to fish the world's oceans by supplying significant quantities of high quality fish. If aquacultural production can perform at an efficient level, SIDS will directly allow various marine life forms to breed, increase their populations and enhance their contribution to marine biodiversity.

Before concluding, I propose that SIDS apply their legislative power and control to demand that Environmental Impact Assessments (EIAs) be a compulsory component of all developmental projects and programs. Simply put, EIAs are tools that assess potential and perceived environmental atrocities that may result from various projects such as the construction of buildings, seawalls, and drainage systems. Two benefits of such a tool is that EIAs will provide governments and citizens of SIDS with the necessary information to weigh environmental costs against developmental goals which in turn will assist in better decision making and two, it allows for the development of proactive environmental protection schemes while projects are in the planning stages. Consequently, SIDS will have nothing to lose by analyzing the results of an EIA.

There are three indispensable issues that will determine the capacity of SIDS as they attempt to battle environmental challenges for the sustainable futures. Financial constraints, the issue of 'civic environmentalism' and law enforcement are these three issues. The various proposals of clean energy production and usage, rural and urban development initiatives as well as land, freshwater and coastal governance schemes will demand enormous financial commitments. However, most SIDS are heavily indebted and are currently struggling to meet debt servicing payments. Consequently, the financial demands for specific programs will be out of reach, despite the financial support, which is granted by the UN, the World Bank and other institutions. Secondly, the issue of civic environmentalism must also be explored. One way that SIDS can conserve their current environment in sustainable ways is by changing their attitudes towards the environment.

Governments, the private sector and the community must highlight the woes of environmental mismanagement in culturally and socially acceptable ways. They must develop large-scale awareness campaigns and participatory events to edify and expose all citizens to the issue with the hope of having them understand the importance of environmental protection. I say this because the only way we can solve the problem is by realizing the problem and making positive attitude changes. Hence, citizens must be informed and feel empowered to change their attitudes and refrain from illegal dumping, littering, over fishing and other imprudent and feckless practices. Lastly, there is a need for all SIDS to enforce all existing environmental laws and penalties. Currently, illegal dumping is still a problem, sand is still being removed and littering is habitual. It is futile to introduce legislation that is not supported by the necessary financial and human resources. Hence I admonish all SIDS to allocate the circumscribed but necessary resources in the fight for the environment, which will allow for efficient enforcement. If SIDS can access sufficient funds, undergo attitudinal change (with regards to the environment) and enforce their laws, they will allow their unborn generations to experience life and nature to its fullest.

Bibliography:

Education Development Center, Youth Employment Opportunities in Renewable Energy (2002)
GESAMP Report (IMO/FAO/UNESCO-IOC/WMO/WHO/IAEA/UN/UNEP/ joint Group of Experts on the Scientific Aspects of Marine Environmental Protection Report) (2001)
UNEP, U.S. NASA, & World Bank, Protecting Our Plant, Securing Our Future (1997)
Lexicon Publications Inc, The New Webster's Comprehensive Dictionary Deluxe Edition (1993)
Success Publishing Group, Compton's Encyclopedia and Fact-Index (2001)

List of Links:
Sustainable Energy: www.newenergy.org/links.html
F.A.O. Aquaculture: www.fao.org/fi/Enviro.asp
Wise Coastal Practices: www.csiwisepractices.org
http://lnweb18.worldbank.org/ESSD/envext.nsf/42ByDocName/CoastalandMarineManagement
Land Management: http://esa.un.org/subindex/pgViewSites.asp?termCode=QD.15
                              http://esa.un.org/subindex/pgViewSites.asp?termCode=QB.10.20

 

 

Evaluate the environmental challenges and implications for the sustainable future of Small Island Developing States (SIDS)

 

<h1 style="text-align: left; line-height: normal;" align="left">By Mr. Kennedy Pemberton</h1> <h1 style="text-align: left; line-height: normal;" align="left"> </h1> <h1 style="text-align: left; line-height: normal;" align="left"></h1>

According to the renowned Caribbean historian Sir Ruel B Reid, economic growth relies in a very real sense on nature, both for the supply of raw materials and for the absorption of the resulting wastages. Thus, based on Reid’s perception I have come to believe in the economic principle that “growth is a necessary and sufficient condition for economic development.” In this context, environmental challenges refer to strains and burdens placed on the natural social and economic conditions of a country. A sustainable future can be viewed as the gradual and continuous enhancement of the economic, ecological, social and political climate of a country, thereby meeting the needs of the present generation without compromising the survival and enrichment of future generations. While, Small Island Developing States (SIDS) are those countries that are characterized by Small, Poor, Open and Transition economies (SPOT Economies).[1]

 

Today, I believe that it is resoundingly evident that SIDS in particular are wrangling with the monumental task of ensuring their development, and have even sought to redefine the structure of their economies in pursuit of sustainability. Hence, without the massive resource base taken for granted in many world nations, SIDS have been forced to undergo major economic transitions. To this end I contend that when considering the sustainability of SIDS, the fast moving and ever evolving tourism industry must be given a more detailed and modern focus. Though at present many SIDS engage in and are heavily dependant on the tourism industry it is my assertion that for far too long our islands’ perception of tourism has been unjustly stereotypical. Over the decades, SIDS have enclosed themselves in the perception that their share of the industry is founded on Sea, Sun and Sand, or as I simply call it the “Triple S Mentality.” Consequently, if our islands are to attain some means of viable development, we must change our perception of this industry and adopt what I call an ‘outside the box mentality’.

 

We have all heard of the many benefits to be derived from this fast paced, metamorphic industry known as tourism, but it is my belief that the potential spoils of tourism have yet to be harnessed by developing island states. Islands like Hawaii, The Bahamas, Anguilla, Trinidad & Tobago and St. Kitts & Nevis for instance all hold reputable acclaim in this industry for various reasons. However the major underpinning commonality shared by these islands is that of the ‘Triple S’ perception by the world at large. Though the ‘Triple S Mentality’ has brought positive economic gains, I strongly believe that change is the most constant and dynamic force which mankind has yet to master. Therefore, if SIDS are ever to attain some viable means of sustainability we must be willing to revisit and amend our antiquated methodologies while designing and adapting new strategies.

 

Tourism in its true sense is a multidimensional industry with many avenues for development and groundbreaking revenue generating initiatives. As such, to confine this industry to a ‘Sea, Sun and Sand’ image, pitched towards upscale markets with a focus on five star resorts, is simply shortsighted. Why focus on this streamline perspective when this industry has the capacity to maintain Eco-Tourism, Cultural Tourism, Sports Tourism, Study Tourism, and Conference Incentive Tourism, just to name a few.

 

For instance, Study Tourism may be defined as programs and activities for learning, training or increasing knowledge on site, involving students and teachers with professionals. Thus, when comparing the gains of Study Tourism with those of the ‘Triple S’ concept, I feel it is evident that Study Tourism has a longer lasting direct impact on the economy, and long lasting impacts are better suited towards fostering sustainability.  Hence, with due consideration to many underutilized aspects of tourism, this industry can form the catalyst for viable development rooted in enhanced continuity.

 

However, as quoted by Mr. Hugh Heyliger, Development Economist & Lecturer at the Clarence Fitzroy Bryant College, his somewhat catchy acronym reads ‘TANSTAAFL’ and translates into a dialect saying of ‘there ain’t no such thing as a free lunch’. Thus, though tourism has great potential as an economic fuel, its enhancement inevitably comes at a cost to the receiving environment.

 

In keeping with the TANSTAAFL concept one major environmental challenge expedited by the tourism industry is that of the contamination of the fragile and limited food sources of small island states. In this case, tourism places an additional demand on small island states to produce more food at a faster rate and so the use of chemical enhancements and pesticides has become a startling reality. Hence, when these chemicals are spilled or administered in wrong proportions it affects the quality of the crops and contaminates the soil and animals that feed on organic elements growing in those soils. Additionally, tourism also demands the creation of infrastructure such as roads, bridges, piers and buildings all of which promote some environmental degradation based on the components used in their assembly. Again these dangerous compounds find themselves contaminating the soils that grow our food, and via rainfall runoff eventually invade the sea, poisoning the habitat of organisms existing there.

 

With the contamination of food sources, SIDS inevitably have to combat the social ill of an unhealthy population, which in turn leads to declining productivity and by extension declining economic growth in these states. As was mention before, growth is a necessary and sufficient condition for economic development, therefore with the health risk posed by the contamination of food sources this challenge has the ability to destroy the natural surroundings, and retard both the social and economic gains initially being pursued.

 

Another implication of contaminated food sources is that of increased government expenditure on health care thereby helping to fuel budget deficits and national debt in small states. According to Lipsey, Courant and Ragan in the text Twelfth Edition Economics, the government’s annual budget deficit is the excess of total expenditure over total revenue in a given year. Therefore, because governments have to borrow in order to finance budget deficits, the accumulation of budget deficits (borrowings) is then referred to as the National Debt. Food contamination, however, also has some positive implications given that governments are now forced to invest in trained health care professionals and proper health care facilities, which act as a powerful incentive for attracting tourists.

 

Nonetheless, food contamination is a threat to the survival of developing states, and to deal with this issue I propose the conducting of environmental impact studies particularly before undertaking major large scale development projects. Again, governments should employ economic incentives like that of tax holidays or reduced import duties in order to stimulate the use of biodegradable materials, and compounds in routine endeavours. Thirdly, animal grazing should be restricted in highly developed areas while zoning and setting up facilities specifically for animal rearing. Finally, territorial marine parameters should be set up and policed thereby ensuring that all fishing occurs at a safe distance from possibly polluted waters.

 

In like manner, another major environmental challenge brought by the tourism industry is that of upsetting the order of natural ecological systems. As many environmentalists will argue every creature and organism has a role to play in nature’s life cycle, as such, when men intrude in this natural balance in the quest for development, devastating side effects can occur. According to the St. Kitts & Nevis Strategic Plan for Tourism Development, “The fact remains that cruise tourism is currently the only sector of the tourism industry that is growing.” Therefore, if SIDS are to capitalize on this phenomenon deep-water harbours and berthing facilities must be developed. In order to achieve this, states quite commonly dredge the sea floor, which in turn interferes with the natural defined boundaries of the sea.  When this is done, the sea is displaced and often responds to this unexpected change by reclaiming the land that formed beaches, and forging steeper cliffs around the islands.

 

Also, given that the boundaries of the sea (or ocean) have been affected, the intrusion of salt water is now a possibility that results in the pollution and or displacement of fresh ground water resources. Once again, sea dredging and the common water based tourist recreation can serve to destroy majestic yet well needed coral reefs that help to protect the coast from violent sea activity. Hence, when these reefs are destroyed SIDS become more susceptible to the devastating erosion force of waves particularly during tropical storms and hurricanes. Furthermore, as one would realize, the pursuance of tourism demands the rapid development of vast amounts of land, and as a result the issue of deforestation becomes a stark reality. In this scenario, the ecological order of natural vegetation is disrupted, exposing large quantities of rich but loose topsoil, thereby amplifying the risk of massive flooding and soil erosion.

 

Contrastingly, it is my belief that adversity has brought about some of man’s greatest triumphs and ingenious initiatives and it is from this belief I make the following proposals. Firstly, in relation to the issue of flooding and soil erosion, governments should look to implement systematic deforestation and redevelopment policies where specific areas are fully developed before the clearing of lands in other areas. Also, there should be the creation and clear definition of developmental zones (for example, housing, industrial, and tourist based), while wild life sanctuaries would occupy relatively undeveloped areas. In addition, governments should seek to implement what I call a minimum reforestation scheme for developers. Here, governments would determine the minimum amount of plants and trees suitable for the premises of various development projects, and prize incentives would be offered to those developers who exceed and efficiently maintain their minimum plant requirement. In like manner, artificial reefs should be created to replace the previously destroyed corals and breeding ground for the displaced underwater organisms. Currently existing natural reefs should be clearly identified and marked so as to ensure their growth, while regulations should be formulated to enhance and enforce their survival.

 

Furthermore, when evaluating environmental challenges brought by the tourism industry, another significant concern is that of resource depletion and pollution.  According to the Lipsey, Courant, & Ragan, economics involves the use of scarce resources to satisfy unlimited human wants. Thus, in the pursuit of sustainability via tourism, small states are aggressively confronted with the issues of scarcity and choice. Under the umbrella, when already scarce resources begin to be depleted it will unavoidably result in stagnated and declining economic growth. Here, the exhaustion of resources like fresh water, and agricultural products that drive tourism, would lead to immense contractions in the economic spin offs of this dwindling industry. In like manner resource depletion and pollution has the potential to exacerbate the spread of poverty within these states. This threat of impoverishment only serves to unravel the socio-economic status of residents in these states by lowering the customary standards of living. Also, another implication of depleted and polluted resources is that of increased criminal activity where residents try to maintain their standard of living via illegal mediums.

 

However, as the saying goes, ‘every dark cloud has a silver lining,’ therefore no challenge is without workable solutions. As such, to combat this threat it is my contention that states should first of all be vigilant and manage the influx of tourists and investors into their countries (e.g. Environmental Management Bureaus). In this sense developing islands should not allow a situation of overcrowding to take place as this places unnecessary strains on their fragile and miniscule resource base. Again SIDS should pursue the construction of timely and accommodating reservoirs in order to safeguard and ensure adequate sources of clean fresh water.  In addition to combat the reality of soil exhausting I suggest a collaborative crop rotation system. Here, SIDS within the same region would liaise and periodically rotate the cultivation of predetermined crops among themselves, in order to allow the soils in the various states to replenish missing nutrients.

 

Furthermore as it concerns resource pollution I recommend a progressive tax approach where those entities found to be maliciously polluting the environment are not only charged penalty fees, but also graduate to higher tax brackets. Like wise those firms who invest in environment protection initiatives would be receive tax holidays as an incentive for their commitment to a healthy environment. Also, proper drainage, sewage and garbage disposal systems must be put in place, to ensure that waste materials are systematically filtered out of the physical environment.

 

Finally, in the quest for sustainability via the tourism industry, another trial that must be mentioned is economic restructuring or transitioning. Under this scenario, the current economic focus of many SIDS may be deemed archaic, and the capacity for productive long-term development would be destined for failure. This transition process therefore affects the social environment of small island states because modern methodologies make previously acquired skills redundant. Hence, economic restructuring can result in large numbers of displaced workers given that their talents would no longer be required. Also, with this surge of displaced workers, increased criminal activity is also likely to occur thereby creating even more social tension.

 

Nonetheless, I believe that through adversity comes triumph and I propose a social rehabilitation program focused at training and retraining these dispersed workers, while stimulating employment opportunities. Also, a land redistribution scheme should be undertaken to zone and tag land for specific development issues.

 

In conclusion, I reiterate that growth is a necessary and sufficient condition for economic development.  This I contend can be accomplished through the deployment of a well-orchestrated plan that ensures a viable tourist industry and such an industry cannot afford to be overshadowed or plagued by a narrow-minded “Triple S” Principle.  New initiatives must continuously be sought and developed, ensure never to neglect the fact that “there ain’t no such thing as a free lunch”.  Consequently, for SIDS to enjoy a thriving, yet sustainable future through tourism, there must be a BALANCE between economic growth, and ecological deterioration.

 

Bibliography & Referencing

  • Reid B. Ruel, Challenges to Caribbean Development 2000 & Beyond.
  • Lipsey. Richard, Courant. Paul, & Regan. Christopher, Twelfth Edition Economics, Addison Wesley Publishing Company, U.S.A, 1999.
  • St. Kitts & Nevis Strategic Plan for Tourism Development, TDI Corporation, St. Kitts & Nevis Tourism Industry, June 5 2002.
  • Singh B. Thomas, Constitutions, Markets & Democracy In SPOT Economies, November 2003.
  • www.borderp2.org/about/index.cfm
  • www.smallislandsvoice.org
  • www.unesco.org/links
  • www.sivglobal.org



[1] Definitions were derived from the following sources:

·                     www.borderp2.org/about/index.cfm

·                     Challenges To Caribbean Development 2000 & Beyond by Ruel B. Reid

·                     Constitutions, Markets & Democracy In SPOT Economies by Thomas B. Singh

 

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