The groynes to be erected at Buccament Bay could be the first among many in the country as St. Vincent and the Grenadines responds to the impact of climate change.
A groyne is a low wall or sturdy barrier built out into the sea from a beach to check erosion and drifting.
During the Budget Debate, MP for South Leeward, Nigel Stephenson said that while that section of the community was not in his constituency, residents of Buccament Bay have raised concerns about the proposed erection of groynes in the bay there.
The groyne would be constructed as part of Sandals’ Beaches Resort.
“… I don’t know why we can’t co-exist in our country. We can’t have development taking place at the expense of the economic activities of the locals,” Stephenson told Parliament.
“And while we are happy that Sandals is there, I’m seeing a definitive, as a matter of fact, a document, that says it is a final outline, final draft … where they are proposing to build groynes, erect groynes at Buccament Bay.”
Stephenson said that there was a meeting in the area attended by government ministers and residents of the Central Leeward community.
“So, when you erect those groynes there, it means that the activities, the fisherman, they’re going to be affected,” Stephenson told Parliament.
“What alternative is going to be made? Yes, we are all for development, not at the expense of the little man. And it’s something that I’m watching very carefully,” he said.
“It is something that we would all have to work out because the previous owners of that place, we know they walk away, wherever they are now, with millions of tax dollars money and Buccament Bay residents got a bad deal.
“We don’t want to see that repeated,” he said, referring to Harlequin, which owned Buccament Bay Resort, which Sandals Resorts International has acquired.
Meanwhile, wrapping up the Budget Debate, Minister of Finance Camillo Gonsalves said that Vincentians will have to get accustomed to seeing groynes.
“I’m going to tell you, honestly, and frankly, we’re going to have a lot more groynes in St. Vincent and the Grenadines. And the reason that we’re going to have a lot more groynes in St. Vincent and the Grenadines is because of a thing called climate change,” Gonsalves said.
“And if we want to protect our coastline, if we want to protect our beaches, if we want to keep our sand, we’re going to need some groynes.”
He said that anyone who flies into Barbados would see groynes along the coast of that island, which is located 118 miles east of St. Vincent.
“And the reason they’re there is because they are invested as an economic position in preserving and maintaining their beaches,” he said, adding that Barbados’ beaches play an important economic role in the country’s tourism industry.
“They’re selling a beach, they don’t have the mountains, they don’t have the waterfalls, they don’t have the other things. They’re selling their beaches, so their beaches have to be maintained,” he said.
“And so, they are ahead of us in maintaining and protecting the beaches and the coastline,” Gonsalves told Parliament.
He said that tourism aside, “if you want to recognise this country called St. Vincent and the Grenadines in the era of climate change, you’re going to need groynes”.
The finance minister said the country will have to understand and acclimatise itself “to the fact that coastal engineers are going to be coming and saying, ‘Right here, we need a groyne. … Right here, we need a sea wall.
“That is the nature of climate change and sea level rise.”
The minister, who is 50 years old, said he remembers when he could play a whole cricket game on Villa beach, with all the fielding positions.
“Now, all you have is enough to bat the ball. Everybody fielding in the sea,” he said.
“I remember Indian Bay when you could lie down on the beach. And don’t get your foot wet. Now, your head is resting on a wall and your foot in the seawater,” Gonsalves said, adding that people used to able to play a full football game on Indian Bay.
“We need to protect our coastlines. And the engineering solution in a lot of these cases is going to be groynes.”
He said what is uglier than groynes is not having a beach at all.
“You know what is uglier? When the sea reaches the road and wash away the road or somebody’s house. So, I hear the Honourable Member for South Leeward, but I want him to hear me as well,” Gonsalves said.
“Nobody putting groynes because they think they’re pretty. They’re putting groynes there to save the coastline of St. Vincent and the Grenadines in an era of climate change.”