STATEMENT FOR THE HOUSE OF ASSEMBLY BY THE DEPUTY PREMIER AND MINISTER FOR NATURAL RESOURCES AND LABOUR
DR. THE HONOURABLE KEDRICK D. PICKERING
ON THE CLEAN-UP AND CLEARING OF DEBRIS FROM BEACHES
THROUGHOUT THE TERRITORY
14TH DECEMBER, 2017
Madame Speaker, I address this Honourable House to report on the progress made in the massive job of cleaning up our beaches and clearing the same of any marine debris which accumulated along our shores.
Madame Speaker, the summer of 2017 is now recorded in the history books as one of the most challenging in the history of the Virgin Islands. We are all too familiar with the devastation caused by the trio of natural disasters experienced this year where every facet of our society and our economy has been touched: the August Monday Floods and Hurricanes Irma and Maria. I have stood in this Honourable house on many occasions and highlighted the importance of our natural resources to the economy of our Virgin Islands. If ever there were questions about the way in which Climate Change impacts our progress as a Territory, I think those questions have been answered. The infamous trio of 2017 has brought the importance and significance of our natural resources to our economy to the forefront, and I am certain that in these times no one can dispute the necessity of protecting these resources for the benefit of the health of our economy, particularly tourism – which along with financial services is a significant contributor to the livelihood to each and every person that inhabits these shores. Beaches in particular are singular in their importance to our cultural and economic viability. We witnessed the devastating impacts on our beaches following the August Monday Floods. Significant portions of our beaches were eroded. The storm surges, which were estimated to range up to 20 feet caused by hurricane Irma, had the opposite effect however of building back and in some instances, widening various beach profiles. Our beaches, however, were adversely impacted as we lost the vegetation which dotted our foreshore leaving them bare and without protection and cover. Additionally, hurricane Irma deposited massive amounts of debris, which had to be cleared in order to restore the integrity. To that avail, the Conservation and Fisheries Department, the National Parks Trust, the BVI Fishing Complex and various civic, community based organisations and individuals have all contributed to the cleanup efforts. To date, Long Bay, Beef Island, Josiah’s Bay, Cane Garden Bay and Brewer’s Bay have been cleaned up and most marine debris removed from the shore on Tortola. The same has been undertaken at The Baths, Devil’s and Spring Bay, as well as St. Thomas and Savannah Bays where a combination of National Parks Trust and community members have cleared various sites of debris. Water quality testing of our near shore waters, a programme undertaken by the Conservation and Fisheries Department, has continued and regular monitoring to ensure the safety of the bathing community is ongoing. I acknowledge and thank the various entities responsible for the restoration of our beaches and our natural environment, which will lead to an accelerated and full recovery over time. Cane Garden Bay and Smugglers Cove are special situations that will need additional professional help in their ultimate restoration. This is a work in progress.
Madame Speaker, at this time I would like to highlight and publicly thank the Government of St. Vincent for their very kind offer of support in assisting our Territory in the restoration of our environment and beaches. The Ministry of Agriculture, Industry, Forestry, Fisheries and Rural Transformation has offered to donate coconut trees, sea grape trees and palms to replant and restore along the shorelines of our beaches based on the loss of so many of our trees. This generosity will go a long way towards ensuring that the foreshore is stabilised and that the integrity of our beaches is restored over time.
Madame Speaker, our natural resources and in particular, our beaches, are incredibly important to our economic, psychological and overall well-being. Now more than ever, we must restore and protect natural assets define us and our beauty. As we build a stronger, more resilient Virgin Islands, we must ensure that we continue to care and protect our environment, which forms a pillar to our recovery and success.