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Thoroughly investigate Negril coast before applying solutions, say Dutch experts

Published:Friday | August 12, 2016 | 12:00 AMClaudia Gardner
Dr Alexander van Oudenhoven (left) and Senior Coastal Engineer at the Deltares Institute, Arjen Luijendijk.

WESTERN BUREAU:

One coastal management expert from the Netherlands has recommended that Negril stakeholders ensure thorough investigation of solutions to beach erosions are conducted to prevent the implementation of beach restoration projects which may further degrade the coastal zone.

Senior Coastal Engineer at the Deltares Institute, Arjen Luijendijk, made his comments in an interview with the media at a seminar staged by the Negril Chamber of Commerce on 'Building With Nature: Environmentally Sound Solutions to Beach Erosion'.

"If you are developing and implementing solutions for this coast, you only have one chance. If you are installing a breakwater, you have one chance. So, you have to do comprehensive investigations so that you are almost sure that the solution that you are implementing - which costs a lot of money - is also providing the benefits that you want," he said.

"I think that the (breakwater) option should have been studied better. The advantages and disadvantages were not fully highlighted, so there was uncertainty in what the consequences would have been from that solution. Therefore, if you don't know the consequences, don't start building. If you don't do those investigations thoroughly, then it is very dangerous to start building anything. Do your homework first," he added.

Luijendijk and his colleague, environmental scientist Dr Alexander van Oudenhoven of the Lieden University have been on the island since last week to conduct assessments of the Negril coastal zone and make recommendations as to the most environmentally sound ways to replenish the beach and other ecosystems.

 

NO DEFINITIVE SOLUTION

 

He said there was presently no definitive solution to combat erosion of the Negril beach as yet as the coastal processes there have not yet been fully understood and the available data are insufficient

"Luckily, we have a stormy season coming up, so we could put some instruments in the water and start monitoring so at least, we have a first winter season covered. It gives us data and it gives us insight and then we can think of the most integrated solution. Then you can think of a combination of beach nourishment and a reef expansion project [for] restoring the seagrass as well ... ," Luijendijk said.

"What we lack is insights on where the sediments pathways are occurring on this beach. If we know for certain where all that material was deposited, then you can get that sand and put it back on the beach. The challenge is to have that information available after a significant storm. You would have to have vessels that monitor the seabed regularly, like every month or on a two-monthly basis, also covering the winter season," he added.

For his part, Oudenhoven said the beach could benefit from small-scale nourishment and a combination of other alternatives, but proper assessments will have to be conducted.

"We are not here to advocate beach nourishment, especially not to the scale that we have in the Netherlands ... , so what you are then talking about would be really small-scale nourishment, literally widening the beach that the impacts of a storm are reduced on the system. It would give the beach a longer time to recover after a storm. Erosion is a natural process that happens and will always happen. What happens if you have a wider beach and restore the coral reefs, seagrass, etc, the sand usually comes back in a month or two to six," he explained.

"When I speak to people around here they say in the '80s, the sand would always come back, until after the coral reefs started dying. So that is how integrated and complicated the issue is," he added.