Minister of the Environment and Drainage Dr Denis Lowe said today it could easily cost Government upwards of $10 million to carry out recovery and rehabilitation work on several of this island’s popular beaches, where there is worrying evidence of erosion.
Following a tour of the beaches, Lowe told reporters he was both concerned and surprised about the extent of the problem.
“I am surprised at what I saw today,” said Lowe.
“I must tell you the truth, I didn’t realize the extent to what was happening. And I feel it’s important for the country to appreciate what is going on and what will be required to respond to these climate [change] impacts,” the minister said.
Today’s tour, which also involved several other Government officials, was for a first-hand assessment of the impact of climate change on the island with a view to arriving at solutions.
It is also in keeping with the mandate given to countries at last November’s talks at which the Paris Agreement on Climate Change was adopted by 195 nations, including Barbados.
As part of that agreement, the island’s response to climate change will be continuously reviewed over the next five years by the United Nations.
After visiting several south coast beaches, including the Crane Beach, Foul Bay Beach and Silver Sands, Lowe said he was “really concerned” about the level of beach erosion and the possible impact on the island’s tourism.
“Some of our tourism assets are hanging precariously on these ridges and you would observe that the erosion is aggressive and certainly the Government will need to act quickly to avoid some of the catastrophe that could occur as a result of the erosion,” he said.
The Minister of the Environment also acknowledged that uncontrolled beach erosion threatened other areas, including the livelihood of fisherfolk.
“The situation with the Crane Beach is very serious because it has the capacity to impact negatively on our tourism product. Two, it has the capacity to impact some of our residents. Three, it has the capacity to impact on access to the beach . . . and with what we are seeing there is evidence that our reefs system may be at risk. Certainly there is enough evidence to show that our citizens settling in those areas are at risk,” the minister stressed.
“What is concerning to me is what it will cost to correct some of those issues and how will the cost be borne. I know that the United Nations systems have established a number of funds that we could tap into, notwithstanding the hurdles that you have to go through from time to time to access them, but the truth is that it is costing more to borrow money and the global economic climate is not friendly to that at this time,” he said.
With Barbados currently trying to “creep out” of a global recession, he was also concerned that, “the more we may need to borrow to fix some of these problems, the more strain it is going to put on our recovery programme. Therefore, it means that what we can do early we have to do”.
Lowe said officials from the relevant departments in his ministry would be “sitting down” and coming up with a five to ten-year programme to address the issue. This would include continued beach rehabilitation involving an extension of the south coast boardwalk.
The programme will also employ a range of mechanisms such as beach nourishment and the building of an artificial reef at Crane Beach.
He explained that his ministry had compiled a number of projects that were to be submitted to Cabinet “very shortly”, adding that some funding should come from the Green Climate Fund.
Acknowledging that a lot of the island’s reef systems were “in trouble” and therefore the beach and shorelines were also “in trouble” especially on the west coast and St Philip area, Lowe said they would be given priority.
He noted that some private sector officials had already expressed an interest in working with Government to help fund some projects, while stating that the Coastal Zone Management United would have to “step up” with some more aggressive response programmes.
Ahead of another tour on Wednesday of beaches along the east and north coasts of the island, the minister also expressed concern about residential and commercial structures, which he said were being erected along the island’s coastline without the approval of the Town & Country Planning Department. He warned that if not addressed, “there could be some devastating consequences”.