Photo: Destruction along the main access road isolated the Manzanilla/Mayaro community following heavy rains, which led to severe coastal flooding in November 2014. Photo courtesy the CPU. 

May 16, 2019 – Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago… In an effort to address the burgeoning threats of coastal erosion and flooding, the Government of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago (GORTT) through the Ministry of Works and Transport (MOWT), Coastal Protection Unit (CPU), has initiated the Comprehensive National Coastal Monitoring Programme (CNCMP). The CNCMP will provide a comprehensive approach to monitoring the state of Trinidad and Tobago’s coastal areas while serving as a much-needed central repository for coastal data. Through this programme, the CPU aims to mitigate the risks of coastal erosion and flooding by equipping coastal managers with relevant information to assess overall risk and to inform sustainable shoreline management decision making. In collaboration with the Institute of Marine Affairs (IMA) and the Tobago House of Assembly (THA), Division of Infrastructure, Quarries and the Environment (DIQE), this programme seeks to position Trinidad and Tobago as one of the regional leaders in shoreline monitoring and management practices.

Photo: Residents of Bamboo Village, Cedros, live on the edge after watching neighbours lose their homes in February 2018, to cliff failures caused by coastal erosion. Photo courtesy the CPU.

The effects of coastal erosion and flooding have been felt extensively throughout Trinidad and Tobago. In November 2014, the Manzanilla/Mayaro community was cut-off from the rest of the island after facing three days of persistent rain, that left the coastal zone submerged destroying several points along the main access road. In the area, critical infrastructure was severely damaged and residents grappled with flooding of their homes and agricultural plots. In Tobago with its smaller land mass, there is a greater dependence on the coast to support the livelihood of people in communities. Consequently, the effects of climate change and sea level rise cannot be ignored. Most notably in 2016, the threat of coastal flooding to Tobago’s tourism product was felt when waves inundated the iconic Pigeon Point Heritage Park rendering the closure of the facility at a time when cruise ships were in port.

Photo: The high energy waves of the Atlantic Ocean are unforgiving to the Magdalena Grand Beach and Golf Resort’s infrastructure, as well as to Little Rockly Bay’s shoreline thus, emphasising the threat of coastal erosion to Tobago’s tourism product. Photo courtesy THA, DIQE.

In January 2016, former President of Trinidad and Tobago, His Excellency Anthony Carmona, exposed the reality that, “we are in fact suffering from the ravages of coastal erosion and as small island developing states, it is in fact a monster that beckons.” With roadways, bridges and other public infrastructure, homes, and private enterprise in jeopardy, the horrors of this ‘beast’ are significantly impacting the lives of Trinbagonians from Matelot to Toco, Manzanilla/Mayaro to Guayaguayare, Moruga to Cap de Ville, Mount St. George to Lambeau, Pigeon Point to Buccoo.

Photo: Improper coastal protection measures, such as this Cap de Ville tyre wall, may offer protection in one area while exacerbating the effects of coastal erosion and flooding in other areas along the coastline. Photo courtesy the CPU.

To demonstrate its leadership and commitment to tackle this global phenomenon, The Ministry of Works and Transport will launch the Comprehensive National Coastal Monitoring Programme.

Photo: Exposed tree roots and fallen trees at Barbados Bay are evidence of coastal erosion, which threatens the Windward Road. Photo courtesy THA, DIQE.