Kudos to the government for finally starting work on a series of management plans for the territory’s beaches.
These long-needed strategies can’t come soon enough.
The importance of the Virgin Islands’ beautiful seashores — which tend to be extremely delicate ecosystems — cannot be overstated. Besides their value to the marine and terrestrial environment, they provide indispensable recreation space for residents and tourists alike.
But all too often, they have been treated with shocking carelessness. More often than not, for instance, beaches have been developed haphazardly without any overall vision in mind, resulting in narrowing, pollution and other damage.
The popular Cane Garden Bay is a prime example. One end has largely washed away in recent decades thanks in part to the destruction of salt ponds and mangrove wetlands. Runoff and other pollution, meanwhile, have killed much of the coral that protects the bay and helps generate its sand.
What’s worse, such threats come at a time when coastlines would be at risk even if left alone: Climate change has already brought many adverse effects that are expected to escalate in the future, include rising sea levels, stronger storms and coral disease.
The management plans — which are in keeping with the landmark 2020 VI Beach Use Policy — should help the territory mitigate such issues by codifying a long-term strategy that can be used to guide decisions by successive government administrations.
The initiative seems to be off to a good start, with public meetings last month on a plan for Long Bay, Beef Island. At these sessions, representatives from the Ministry of Natural Resources, Labour and Immigration proposed a reasonable strategy, and attendees responded positively and provided ideas to make it better.
After leaders consider the public input, they should quickly finalise the Beef Island plan and then create similar strategies for the rest of the territory’s beaches as soon as possible. Each should be officially adopted by Cabinet and the House of Assembly and then enforced over the long term.
At times, the planning process will be contentious, especially for beaches like Cane Garden Bay where many stakeholders are involved. But leaders and other community members must forge ahead anyway.
Otherwise, the beaches might not be there for their grandchildren.