Fri | Feb 21, 2020

Negril beach erosion grabs Vaz’s attention

Published:Monday | November 25, 2019 | 12:06 AMChristopher Serju/Gleaner Writer
A section of the Seven-Mile Beach in Negril.
A section of the Seven-Mile Beach in Negril.

Minister without portfolio in the Office of the Prime Minister, Daryl Vaz, has called attention to the impact of beach erosion as an ongoing threat, especially for some of Jamaica’s coastal areas.

“Our most famous, or, perhaps, infamous example, is the seven miles (or approximately 11 kilometres) of golden sand in our western coastal resort town of Negril that, based on several studies, is steadily losing approximately one metre of sand per year,” Vaz recounted at last Wednesday’s launch of the study, The Forces of Nature: Assessment and Economic Valuation of Coastal Protection Services provided by Mangroves in Jamaica by the World Bank Group.

He explained that Negril’s beach loss has for years been the subject of ongoing discussions among all stakeholders and hinted at the likely cause.

“It is perhaps symptomatic of damage to the natural features and processes that build and maintain beaches, including the degradation of our coral reefs from overfishing, poor water quality, hurricanes, the removal of dunes, mangroves and seagrasses, and the construction of buildings, sometimes too close to the high water mark. Sea level rise associated with climate change places Negril and our other beaches under serious threat.”

MITIGATING AGAINST BEACH EROSION

Vaz suggested that planting new mangroves and conserving our existing mangrove forests may help us to mitigate against further erosion to our coastline, and so the Forestry Department is conducting an assessment of all the mangroves across Jamaica to determine the national baseline status with regard to spatial distribution, composition and health.

Since January 2019, they have completed approximately 4,600 hectares. On completion of this national assessment of the approximately 9,700 hectares of mangroves identified in the 2013 land use assessment of Jamaica, the information will feed into the development of a National Mangrove Management Plan.

The plan, which will be prepared in conjunction with The University of the West Indies, the National Environment and Planning Agency, the Urban Development Corporation, and other key stakeholders, is part of the European Union’s Budget Support Programme.

Vaz welcomed the study to the body of work already being done to better manage the clear and present danger to Jamaica from natural disasters and increase our resilience to the impacts of climate change.

“The insightful and comprehensive research that went into this study will no doubt inform our policies, programmes, and plans in regard to disaster mitigation and recovery and, in particular, the conservation and restoration of our mangroves as we seek to ensure a sustainable future for our beloved Jamaica, land we love.”