It was not that long ago that some of Barbados??? beaches were impassable; shorelines were eroding and the waves had no barriers to stop their angry surf from spilling into the back yards of businesses and on to the road.
Back then, the island, like others experiencing the effects of climate change, fell victim to rising sea levels and changes that had the potential to alter the country???s landscape permanently, and even threaten the vulnerable tourism industry.
Acting Director of what is now the Coastal Zone Management Unit (CZMU), Dr. Lorna Inniss, recalled that it was the pleas of hoteliers as far back as 1981 and 1982 that got the ball rolling for greater attention to be paid to the island???s coastal areas, in an effort to protect Barbados and its sectors.
To preserve Barbados??? beaches, the Coastal Conservation Project Unit (CCPU) was established to run the Coastal Zone Management Programme for Barbados, designed to determine the causes and issues associated with beach erosion on the island.
Dr. Inniss explained: ???What they did was to look at all of the assets we had in the coastal areas. They looked at the near shore waters, the pollutants, the vegetation, the trees that were there, the wetlands, the coral reefs and the sea grass beds and the sand dunes. They also began to look at how the coastal areas are used in Barbados, and they began to make recommendations.???
Now, 30 years later, the CCPU, now the CZMU, is celebrating 30 years of integrated coastal zone management. The Acting Director said the CZMU was hoping to take people on a journey over the last 30 years to highlight its history and to educate people about what is done to support coastal zone management in Barbados.
???Between then and now, we have implemented a series of projects and programmes designed to build out a mature management programme that would address all of the issues that would arise in the coastal zone areas of Barbados,??? she noted.
That was done with assistance from the Inter-American Development Bank, which has allowed the CZMU to deliver renewed coastlines to Barbados, featuring white, sandy beaches and coral reefs that attract thousands of spectators, and promoted the conservation of the island???s ecosystems.
Dr. Inniss explained that the CZMU assisted the Chief Town Planner in regulating coastal development, but quickly stressed that the unit did not want to stop or impede economic development.
??????We want there to be coastal development, but we want there to be a strict regulatory system in place that ensures the economic development that occurs in the coastal zone is compatible with the health of ecosystems, and is equitable both for locals who may be using the coastal zone, and for visitors who are coming to our shores to use the coastal zone. [We want to ensure that] there are financial returns for the country. That constitutes sustainable development, and that???s what we are trying to achieve,??? she indicated.
Within recent years, the CZMU was able to have an excellent ecosystem conservation programme, allowing them to maintain and restore the resilience of the coastal ecosystems.??The Richard Haynes Boardwalk, used by many for recreational purposes, is a prime example of some of the work that was done.
The structure at Hastings, Christ Church, also allows the CZMU to conduct a period of monitoring, analysis and design work to better protect the island from coastal hazards.??It also represents a transition in the focus of the CZMU to examining the risks to Barbados from the sea, especially in the face of climate change and rising sea levels.
Dr. Inniss made it clear that the predictions for sea level rise in the Caribbean were staggering, and warned that beaches without a slope, such as those in Barbados, could be especially vulnerable.
???What we would like to do is monitor appropriately before the hazard comes. We want to understand all the dynamics and the processes that occur in the marine areas that are close to Barbados, such as waves. We want to understand what angle they are coming at, how high they are, what beach they are going to interact with; we want to know what happens when there are winter storms up north and the high waves come down through the Atlantic, how it is going to affect our shores.
???We want to understand what will happen if there is a tsunami generated from the Canary Islands on the sea mount, if there is a landslide underwater, what will happen in terms of the tsunami waves coming towards Barbados; we want to understand what level of storm surge based on historical facts Barbados will experience,??? Dr. Inniss pointed out.
However, she stressed that the aim of the CZMU was to dive deeper to see how these impacts would affect all of the island???s coasts.??Central to these efforts is the ongoing Coastal Risk Assessment and Management Programme, which carries a component of coastal risk.
Dr. Inniss explained that component of the six-year project would see the CZMU establishing a number of new monitoring programmes around the island, and new instrumentation.??She added that it would also require additional capacity building for the staff at the CZMU, and a major public education and awareness campaign for the public and various sectors.
However, it will all be worth it as the CZMU aims to live up to its motto and give Barbados A Coast to be Proud Of.