Jamaica is shortly to have the benefit of a comprehensive set of guidelines for coastal management and beach restoration, as it faces down a changing climate that puts at risk coastal resources on which it is hugely dependent.
But whether the island will gain the full measure of the anticipated benefits remains to be seen.
“Guidelines are usually of limited importance since they are non-binding and often ignored. Even binding requirements are often ignored,” cautioned Diana McCaulay, chief executive officer for the Jamaica Environment Trust.
The guidelines – the work of Mott MacDonald and partners – are due out in May, following on a February 22 stakeholder consultation on the document.
According to information out of the World Bank, the guidelines, now in draft, integrate hard infrastructure measures with soft measures like relocation, replanting and beach restoration and nourishment, together with non-structural solutions, including conservation and awareness raising and education.
“The guidelines consist of recommended, non-mandatory control serving as a reference for coastal protection measures,” noted Galina Sotirova, World Bank country manager for Jamaica.
“They will be used to implement and enforce new policies and strengthen those that already exist, thus enhancing disaster risk management, climate resilience and natural resources management along Jamaica’s coastline. This will directly complement the work on building resilience in Jamaica’s coastal areas,” she added.
The recent workshop reportedly saw more than 40 representatives from the public, private, academic and civil society sectors who were able to present questions or otherwise make suggestions on the document.
However, while the guidelines look to be headed in the right direction, McCaulay said Jamaica’s problem has traditionally been “that we continue to permit development that increases our vulnerability to climate change and the degradation of the marine environment”.
“For example, the National Environment and Planning Agency (NEPA) still gives permits for the removal of seagrasses and mangroves, building is still occurring on sand dunes, sewage treatment is still poor in too many cases, resulting in decline in coral reefs, overfishing and fishing in sanctuaries still continue, setback from the high-water mark are insufficient, etc,” the JET boss told The Gleaner.
Added McCaulay: “Although NEPA does require replanting of seagrasses and mangroves, their protection and habitat functions are lost during the many years they take to grow, and in some cases, the replanting has been badly done and unsuccessful. Beaches are maintained by complex processes. If those processes are allowed to be disrupted by development, beaches will be lost.”
The World Bank, meanwhile, is optimistic for a good outcome once the finalised guidelines are delivered.
“We envision NEPA’s adoption of guideline recommendations and incorporate them into beach licence applications. The guidelines will also be readily available to all stakeholders working in coastal areas – Government, academia, NGOs, private sector, etc – resulting in the rehabilitation of degraded coastal ecosystems and reduction of climate-related impacts on that coastal sites,” she said in her address to the workshop.
“Finally, we expect that the innovative approaches recommended in the guidelines will promote the introduction of nature-based and hybrid coastal protection measures; essential to minimising the impacts of coastal hazards to secure a healthier environment, essential for Jamaica’s coastal economy and livelihoods in the tourism and fishing industries.”
The guidelines are being developed through the ACP-EU Grant ‘Strengthening Disaster Risk Management and Climate Resilience in Jamaica’s Development Planning Process’ funded by the ACP-EU.