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Experts fear taking sand from beach will cause massive erosion

Experts fear taking sand from beach will cause massive erosion


Sand mining at Brighton Beach is causing “an environmental and ecological disaster” and two Vincentians are speaking out against the development.

A property owner and a resident in the Brighton area have expressed anger at conditions in the community, due to the sand mining being done by the Road, Building and General Services Authority (BRAGSA).

Sand mining has been taking place along the coast of St Vincent and the Grenadines for decades; however, since 2004 the then General Equipment and Services Corporation (GESCO), now BRAGSA, has been exploiting the beaches of Brighton and more recently, Diamond.

In the Friday, April 28 edition of the Searchlight, veteran lawyer Theodore Browne raised the issue of the environmental damage being caused by the sand mining in the area.

Browne, in his letter, stated that the actions were in direct contravention of the recommendations of numerous environmental reports, including a 2010 study by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) on the impact of sand mining in St Vincent and the Grenadines, which strongly advised against the practice.

Browne also pointed out that coastal erosion in Brighton is “extremely bad” and sand mining has “brought on an environmental and ecological disaster”.

SEARCHLIGHT also spoke to another homeowner, who stated that she was suffering “drastically” because of the sand mining.

“I’m affected because all the dust and everything like that mess up my house. So, at weekends I have to be washing down my house from all the sand and everything that’s there and also they are taking the sand and the sea is coming up much closer to the land and it coming up to my house,” said the resident who asked not to be identified.

She also stated that when she moved into the area about 11 years ago, there were a number of trees protecting the property from the water.

“There were lots of grape trees, and stuff like that, that was there to protect you from the sea water coming in,” the householder explained. “But since they start doing the sand mining, all that is gone. There was a lovely dune built up of sand down there and because of taking the sand, all that disappear.”

She also stated that before the mining started turtles would come on to the beach to nest; however, she does not know if they still do, because she no longer goes to the beach.

“I am so disappointed and so upset about the way how it is looking down there right now that I avoid going down there.”

She added that there are persons with land nearer to the sea than her home, but they are afraid to build on it because the water continues to encroach.

The poor state of the road, which was dug up by BRAGSA in preparation for resurfacing, is also a major concern for residents.

“They haven’t done anything up to now. When the rain come is like all the water coming down from above on the little track that we have and make big gullies in the road,” she noted.

Environmentalist Dr Reynold Murray described coastal erosion on the eastern side of island as “massive,” with the situation being compounded by taking sand from the sea water.

“The sand is really supposed to be reducing the impact of the waves coming in, so when you remove the sand, when waves come in they have nothing to reduce the impact,” he pointed out.

Additionally, he noted, there would be a loss of habitat for nesting turtles and even problems for fishermen.

Recreational opportunities for Vincentians would also be reduced as a result of the eroded coastline, he added.

“Those are the physical impacts that you would see immediately. Not next week or next year, immediately.”

The environmentalist added that the impact on homes and property would be more long-term, with the potential for greater damage by storm surges where there are no beach defences to mitigage.

“Because St Vincent is not particularly flat, you are not going to see that immediately, unless of course, there’s a tropical storm and the waves are really high — then you could have greater wave impact reaching the shore, because nothing is there to reduce the impact,” he said.

“The greatest impact is not going not be the houses immediately, but the country. The loss of the shoreline, the loss of biodiversity, the loss of recreational facilities and the constant erosion that we are having.”

He stated that in order to solve this problem, the mining needs to be halted.

Murray explained that while people would tend to build sea walls, they do not recommend hard engineering structures to deal with coastal erosion.

However, he noted that if sea walls are constructed, over time the water would undermine them.

“Then people might consider putting in things like groins, which are almost like a jetty, but made of pure stone, so that it will trap the sand that comes in and prevent the movement,” Murray suggested.

He explained though that if the sand is trapped in one area, another would be starved.

“So, it’s not just that … we put a groin and the beach just starts coming back. But, while that beach is coming back, the place where that sand would have gone to eventually without the groin is now starved of that sand, so there is a trade-off.”

He also suggested the planting of trees along the coast or the strategic placing of boulders to act as barriers to allow the sand to accumulate.

SEARCHLIGHT also spoke to Minister of Transport and Works Senator Julian Francis, who said that he agreed that the removal of sand is not environmentally friendly.

“It is not environmentally friendly,” he said.

Francis explained that while the mining which is taking place is controlled, they need to stop taking sand from the beach.

“It is a national discussion that we have to have on this matter. I am insisting that there is construction sand and there is a plastering sand, so we could reduce significantly the beach sand, if people are prepared to buy the manufactured sand from Rabacca.”

Francis pointed out that while Government is willing to provide manufactured sand, some persons prefer to buy the cheaper sand from the beach.

He explained that in order for sand mining to come to an end, persons would have to be willing to pay a little more for the alternative.

“There needs to be a national conversation on it and people’s preparedness to pay more for sand. Are they prepared to pay more for sand? If they are prepared to pay more for sand, I could produce a construction sand out of Rabacca. Trucking is going to be more expensive and everything else,” the Transport Minister stated.

Francis added that he would love to stop sand mining and disclosed that they have been making recommendations on how to achieve this.

“We can do it,” he added. “Those two beaches have been designated for the mining of sand, but we have mined and we alternate between Brighton and Diamond and it’s banned from other beaches for anybody to take sand. But we need to move from that now to using a different type of sand and give the beach a rest to build back.”