Small Islands Voice Global Forum
Sharing beach resources
This article on beach access combines some interesting viewpoints from around the world and finishes up by highlighting a new controversy about beach access that has recently erupted in another Caribbean island, Bequia. If you are new to this forum, and would like to read the other articles, then go to http://www.sivglobal.org .
In Seychelles we have over 500 beautiful beaches writes Nathalie Savy. We are lucky in the sense that if one is restricted there is always another one to go to – however, it may be crowded and have less bathing space. Access to some of our beaches is restricted by buildings and resorts. While resorts provide employment and dollars for the economy, sometimes too they deprive the communities of their relaxation activities. Seychellois love to picnic, it is a great Sunday pastime. We do not have huge movie halls or shopping complexes to keep us busy on the weekends. We have our NATURE, our beaches, the sea and our mountains. Therefore the question is, once the decision is made, do we have a choice? Is the decision made by the people? Is it a collective choice which beach and for whom? Beaches are one issue, but what about ISLANDS? Restricted and exclusive islands that most of the population do not have the financial means to visit, and if they do get the once in a lifetime opportunity to visit, they find a majority of them are 'off limits'?
Brian Mommsen takes up this point. People have conflicting emotional and economic motivations about beaches, but people on both sides need to recognize the primary need to protect and share resources such as beaches. The problem here is complex, but beaches must be (1) protected from abuse, (2) shared by all, (3) regulated by laws prepared by both citizens and government working together.
Michelle writes that public parks are non-existent in many small island nations where governments place public parks as a low priority, especially when more costly improvements such as roadways, schools, or hospitals are needed. She sees beaches as the no-cost-to-government equivalent to public parks. Maintaining public access to these areas is important.
Several people have written about a new beach access problem that has recently arisen in the tiny Grenadine island of Bequia in the Caribbean. Peter Jacobs describes the situation at Friendship Bay where a foreigner has built a fence nearly into the sea, fencing in a lot of the beach. He claims that the boundary mark of his property ends there. Arnie Kemper has provided photographs ( http://www.unesco.org/csi/smis/siv/Caribbean/svg-FBay.htm ) of Friendship Bay and the fence in question. Herman Belmar provides some background about the situation - here on Bequia, Friendship Bay has always been a natural place to be, for locals as well as tourists. There have never been any conflicts as far as use is concerned. The locals use the beach to get to their work at the hotel and beachfront restaurants. They have forever been using it as the prime access to their agriculture plots at the other end of the beach. The fishermen have never given up their rights to the beach either. We have laws granting the people rights of access to all beaches in St. Vincent and the Grenadines. We have not given up on our rights, and a letter of protest was delivered to the appropriate authorities (mid January 2003). We are now awaiting the outcome, which we hope will be the speedy dismantling of the fence.
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