Contrary to some critics, the decision of successive Governments to invest in environmental projects is not long-winded initiatives with benefits to be realized many decades later.
As a matter of fact, consultant to Coastal Zone Management Unit, Peter Schumann recently revealed that coastal infrastructure projects such as the sea barriers in the form of the boardwalks at Hasting, Holetown and Wharf Road, have already paid for themselves and will continue do so many times over.
He argued that these boardwalks have become major waterfront attractions, which have served as major boost for businesses, especially restaurants, and other recreational activity.
“The economic values from these projects come in the form recreational, mitigation and business opportunities along the boardwalks. Those values appear to be quite significant as we have done empirical studies, which have estimated those values in dollars and it shows that the projects are more than paying for themselves. I would estimate that just from the recreational and business activities alone that these barriers have already paid for themselves. It seems that they would pay for themselves multiple times,” said Schumann, who noted that collectively millions in benefits have already been derived from these projects.
Additionally, the University of North Carolina professor pointed out that the level of recurring maintenance cost, which was originally thought to be required, has proven to be significantly less over the years.
In Hastings, 1.2-kilometre walkway, which spans from Rockley Beach to just west of the Sierra Beach Hotel, was first opened to the public in 2008, but its novelty is yet to wear off. Amidst criticisms and a budgeted cost of US$9.2 million, the boardwalk was built and designed to provide continuous public access along the shoreline and enhance beaches where feasible and appropriate.
In his interview with Barbados TODAY, Schumann explained why this hefty price tag was well worth it.
“These projects were not just designed to mitigate erosion, we could have just a big rock wall there and it would have done the erosion mitigation part but we had the foresight to make it a place where people could go and enjoy recreation so that’s added economic value. In addition, tourists like to visit these sites. It is estimated that the Hastings boardwalk earns roughly one million dollars per year and I believe that is an underestimate,” Schumann said.
However, the coastal management expert noted that the aesthetic and recreation values are only half of the cost saving and earning potential of these projects. He explained that that projects such as coastal barriers can pay for themselves after the passage of a single storm or hurricane.
There are environmental costs that yet to be estimated. The largest risk to Barbados is flooding and storm surge. The 100-year condition can potentially cause $4.5 billion in damages and this includes business disruptions and potential loss from tourism. I know of places that have been affected by 100-year conditions three times in the last five years. Texas was affected by 1000-year condition just quite recently. If those coastal infrastructures mitigate just two per cent of those potential losses then they would have paid for themselves on that basis alone,” he said.