Tue | Sep 25, 2018

Gleaner Editors' Forum | Almost $14m needed to start restoring Hellshire Beach - Experts warn that it will take decades to come back

Published:Sunday | August 5, 2018 | 12:00 AMCorey Robinson
A vendor strolls along what is left of the Hellshire Beach where the sea is now touchingg the buildings on what was a wide stretch of beach.
Hay
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It could cost more than US$100,000 (approximately J$13.5 million) to just begin the well-needed efforts to recover the Hellshire Beach in St Catherine, and even then it would take decades for the once-pristine beach to return to its former glory.

What once was a wide strip of sand in front of quaint cookshops and beachside restaurants has vanished and experts say that pollution and warmer temperatures linked to climate change have killed the once-thriving coral reefs offshore, allowing waves to pound the beach and wash away the sand.

A multimillion-dollar proposal to erect artificial reefs to protect the beach is being stalled by a lack of investors, and the experts fear the time for action is running out.

Chief scientific officer at the Coastal Area Management (C-CAM) Foundation, Donovan Brandon Hay, last Thursday told a Gleaner Editors' Forum that pollution from the Kingston Harbour and Portmore has completely wiped out the reefs that protect the beach.

"The reefs have been dead for some time now, and as they disintegrate the protection they offered for the beach is no longer there," said Hay.

"Those reefs cannot come back. So there needs to be, in our minds, a two-pronged approach. We need to clean up Kingston Harbour to give the reefs a chance to come back; and even if we clean it up today it is going to take decades for that recovery to take place," added Hay.

 

Short-term solution

 

He has proposed erecting artificial reefs as the other short-term solution to the Hellshire Beach restoration.

According to Hay, the US$100,000 would be sufficient just for the first phase of the least expensive artificial reef solution, which he said has worked in other parts of the world.

Other recommendations included engineering hard physical structures to protect the beach.

"Artificial reefs might be able to help in the short term but even those things cost money. Finding the right solution and the right funding source has been a challenge," said Hay.

"If we can get sufficient funding we might be able to save that beach. It has been done in other places of the world so it is

possible despite the levels of

pollution at Hellshire.

"We thought we would have had it funded by a particular agency that we were dealing with but they have said no," Ingrid Parchment, executive director of C-CAM, told the forum.

"But I think we definitely want to revisit it and I think we have the fishers on board and that is very important. When you are doing something and you have the community on board it can happen," she said, lauding positive feedback about their efforts from fisherfolk who make their living at the beach.

corey.robinson@gleanerjm.com