Small Islands Voice Global Forum
Providing public access to the beach
Free and easy access to public beaches is a tradition that many islanders see as a ‘right’. Emile Louis has already voiced his concerns about the loss of access to the beach at Pigeon Point in Tobago on this forum and several people from around the world have supported his views. Other responses follow.
Tam Tam Alphonse from Seychelles writes that in general, 99% of all litter on beaches is deposited by locals, not tourists, 100% of turtle deaths are perpetrated by locals, 99% of crime on beaches is committed by locals, and so on. When it comes to conservation the only voices the authorities listen to are the visitors from overseas. In most third world countries, unless beaches are carefully managed by imposing severe restrictions on locals, then they become degraded. Of course, there is the problem that tourism causes environmental damage by pressurising already over-populated areas. But how to address the question of the vital income derived from tourism? Unrestricted access on some beaches drives tourists away or causes travel agents not to promote certain resorts or tourist areas, this leads to unemployment and reduced economic growth. The best answer is marine national parks.
Frank Zaandam writes that in Aruba all beaches are by law public; and whether you possess one dollar or one billion dollars, everybody can freely use the beaches. Tauraki Rongo from the Cook Islands further develops this theme and proposes that legislation should be developed to accommodate access to the beaches or existing legislation should be revised. National tourism plans should also include these considerations because it is mainly tourism accommodations that are blocking access to the beaches in order to provide privacy for their guests.
Bruce Potter also takes up this point and asks whether the beach, the sea and the jetty at Pigeon Point are indeed free public spaces? If so, there might be a need for national legislation guaranteeing public access to these public spaces. Model legislation and regulations exist that have worked in other parts of the world.
He also thinks that it is a bit counterproductive to describe this problem without identifying the landowner, and his/their multiple commercial interests in Trinidad and Tobago. While we don't have to accept Mr. Louis's description of the situation without confirmation from others, maybe the landowner would be ‘interested’ to find several dozen people writing to him from around the world to express an interest in the issue, even if only to ask his position on the matter. This point is further emphasized by Bob Conrich from Anguilla who suggests that we're protecting him by not revealing who he is or who he represents and asks are we on his side or that of the people?
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