At risk

by Shawn Cumberbatch

Oistins, Holetown and Sandy Lane have been identified as areas highly susceptible to erosion as a result of climate change and related sea level rise.

But beyond concern about this trio of much loved and economically crucial coastal areas, a new study has found it would cost a staggering $370.8 million to construct new levees and a new 8.43 kilometre sea wall to give the island’s capital city Bridgetown adequate “engineered protection”.


Most of the concern centred, however, around the three named areas in Christ Church and St. James, as indicated in a 2012 climate change risk profile led by Barbados-based regional organisation The CARIBSAVE Partnership. It was done with funding from the Department for International Development in the United Kingdom and the Australian Agency for International Development.

In the case of Holetown and Sandy Lane, areas frequented by the rich as well as not so well off, CARIBSAVE coordinated a field research team with members from the University of Waterloo, Canada, and Barbados Coastal Zone Management Unit staff to complete detailed coastal profile surveying.

They found that while some tourism infrastructure was “more vulnerable than others”, the level of risk ranged from eight per cent of the major tourism properties in that West Coast area being threatened by a one metre sea level rise, to 32 per cent of the same properties being at risk from a two metre sea level rise.

“It is important to note that the critical beach assets would be affected much earlier than the sea level rise induced erosion damages to tourism infrastructure; indeed, once erosion is damaging tourism infrastructure, it means that the beach, a vital tourism asset, has essentially disappeared,” the report stated.

Researches also pointed out that “approximately 25 per cent of Barbados’ population lives within two kilometres of the coast” and that “the high— density tourism development, particularly on the West Coast, is highly vulnerable to sea level rise and storm surge.

And having met with about 50 Oistins “community members” to conduct its investigation, the assessment team said that area was “in need of protection if it is to remain as a major attraction and source of livelihood for those who depend on it”.

“A Rapid Response Plan is critical for boats to be quickly and safely stored when storms are approaching. This should be part of a wider Community Climate Change and Disaster Risk Reduction Programme to include awareness, capacity building and the improvement of the one landing site which has been damaged over time by beach loss,” the team advised.

“Food vendors require shelter for their patrons since currently they are not able to attract business when it is raining. With financial and technical support, the well-known community members that are actively involved in the District Emergency Organisation, the Oistins Users Committee and the Oistins Fisherfolk Association, are willing to act as agents of change for the protection of Oistins. They should clearly then be included in any adaptation interventions in the community,” they added.

CARIBSAVE and company said further action was necessary in light of the fact the problem was expected to worsen.

“One hundred per cent of the ports in Barbados are projected to be inundated by storm surge associated with a one metre sea level rise, but turtle nesting sites (on beaches) are destroyed by erosion in minor storm surge events,” the report stated.

“If action is not taken to protect the coastline of Barbados, the current and projected vulnerabilities of the tourism sector to sea level rise will result in the very significant economic losses for the country and its people.

Hard engineering structures such as dikes, levees, revetments and sea walls can be used to protect the land and related infrastructure from the sea. This is done to ensure that existing land uses, such as tourism, continue to operate despite changes in the surface level of the sea.

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