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Coastal Weakness May ‘Compromise’ Tourism

By NATARIO McKENZIE

Tribune Business Reporter

nmckenzie@tribunemedia.net

The Government yesterday said it was undertaking feasibility studies to help management (ICZM) and better manage the country’s coastal resources, and mitigate the impact of natural disasters and climate change.

    The Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) has provided a $650,000 grant and technical co-operation to support the initiative. The agreement is being executed by the Ministry of Environment & Housing and the IDB over an 18-month period.

Khaalis Rolle, minister of state for investments, said yesterday that the launch was key towards increased integrated coastal zone management in the Bahamas.

“The technical cooperation between the Government of the Bahamas and the IDB will help fill the gaps in scientific baseline data, provide analyses and consensus in support of coastal zone management,  and build capacity among the network of institutions that will be responsible for the ICZM policy and investment programme,” said Mr Rolle.

“As a coastal nation we are vulnerable to natural disasters such as hurricanes, for when they threaten the health of our coastal and marine ecosystems, they are a threat to our economy. As an island nation we are also susceptible to the increased frequency and intensity of storms associated with climate change and sea level rises. These put our fresh water resources, coastal infrastructure and coastal biodiversity at risk.”

Mr Rolle said that while the programme will build on the Barbados experience, it would be adapted to fit the low-lying nature of the Bahamas.

IDB country representative, Astrid Wynter, said Prime Minister Perry Christie has made several remarks in the past regarding the frustrating frequency with which the Government has had to repair roads and other coastal infrastructure damaged by hurricanes and tropical storms.

“Various international studies, including some carried out by the bank, show that  hurricanes and tropical storms are affecting the islands of the Bahamas more frequently as a result of climate variability and climate change,” she said.

“These studies also suggest that the impact of sea level rise will be potentially catastrophic for the Bahamas. These natural thrusts as well as man-made threats, such as pollution and coastal development,  lead for example to reef depredations and coral bleaching that are compromising the health of the country’s coastal and marine biodiversity.

“If these challenges are not given priority attention it is predicted that the country’s tourism product and overall economic growth prospects could be compromised in the short to long-term.”

The IDB grant will be used to  support the existing initiatives of entities such as the Bahamas National Trust (BNT), Bahamas National Geographic Information Systems (BNGIS) and the BEST Commission; build the capacity for developing and implementing an investment programme in integrated coastal zone management; and provide designs and feasibility analyses for the investment programme.

Ms Wynter said the project represents one of two parallel interventions financed by the IDB in the context of a broader  national economic planning framework.

“As recently as December 2014, the bank approved grant financing in the amount of $600,000 to develop an ecosystem-based development plan for Andros, the first in the Bahamas and the Caribbean,” she added.

“This development plan will ensure the natural capital of Andros is mainstreamed the design and implementation of development strategies with a view of ensuring the future well being of all Bahamians.”

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