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Lack of plan for Mt Craven/Mt Rodney beaches

Mt Craven/Mt Rodney Disaster Preparedness Mitigation & Environmental Organisation (MCDEPMO) organised a public meeting in Fir Community Centre on Tuesday, October 13, 2020.

The focus of the meeting was the erosion of the beaches in Mt Craven/Mt Rodney, the threat to those living close to the sea and the potential loss of the road to Davey.

The Parliamentary Representative for St Patrick West, Anthony Boatswain was invited by the group to give an update re what the Government was considering implementing to mitigate against the disaster which has been unfolding in the area since November 2017.

Approximately seventy (70) members from surrounding communities attended the meeting.

Mr Boatswain was accompanied by the member for St Patrick East, Pamela Moses, the Minister for Seed in the Prime Minister’s Ministry and Mr DeCaul, the contractor for the Breakwater (the Wall) in Sauteurs Bay.

Apologies were offered on behalf of Senator Simon Stiell, the Minister for Climate Resilience, and Mr Garraway, the Minister for Disaster Management in the Prime Minister’s Ministry.

Brief remarks were offered by both Parliamentary Representatives and the meeting was informed that both Minister Bowen, now the Minister of Finance and Senator Norland Cox, the Minister for Infrastructural Development had been consulted prior to the meeting and both had given assurances that the mitigation work for the beaches and the remainder of the breakwater (wall) were a Government priority in the new budget year of 2021 and a plan would be revealed by Mr Decaul, later in the meeting.

Despite intense questioning and contributions from the floor for nearly three hours, no plan for mitigation for the beaches and the road was forthcoming.

This became clearer as the Parliamentary Representative for St Patrick West repeatedly asked the audience what their plan would be. The lack of clarity in relation to the way forward left the community members frustrated and angry.

The onset of COVID-19 and the resulting loss in finances was used again and again as an excuse for the lack of action in relation to the beaches, despite the fact that this disaster has been ongoing for three years and the virus appeared in Grenada seven months ago.

Mr Boatswain also stated more than once that there was no scientific evidence to prove that the Breakwater could be held responsible for the destruction of the adjacent beaches and yet spent almost 40 minutes defending the breakwater (Wall).

He spoke at length of the reasons for moving people off the beach, citing storms of previous years, global warming and finally the threat of a tsunami from Kick’em Jenny.

However, he also said that people would be able to continue having businesses on the beach which confused some community members on reflection post meeting.

Some also wondered why the threat of tsunami has never bothered the Parliamentary Representative until now, as he has been representing this part of St Patrick since 1999, causing them to ask, what really is the reason for moving people off the beach at this juncture?

Excuses and deflecting were the order of the meeting, as attempts were made at one point to place responsibility for the lack of progress on Mr Decaul’s shoulders, his response was that he can only act when given instructions by those who hold the purse strings, he does not have the power to make decisions.

However, he did inform the meeting that he had some money remaining from the original budget for the Breakwater.

He has also requested experts to make an evaluation of what is happening on the beaches and make recommendations as to the way forward, funded from his own pocket, he is not yet in receipt of that report.

This statement is in contradiction to information given by Mr Boatswain to community members previously when he stated categorically that the Government had earmarked $3million in 2018 for mitigation on the beaches and a sketch of a plan was presented as to the way forward.

A suggestion from the floor was that a retaining wall be built in Sauteurs Bay to protect Low town, the breakwater (wall) be dismantled which should then see the adjacent beaches be naturally restored.

Another interesting fact reported by one of the community members at the meeting was that an application was never presented to the Planning Department for the construction of the Breakwater (Wall).

This was said with confidence as the person was part of the Planning Department when the construction was started and made several enquiries as to what was happening in Sauteurs Bay.

It was stated that eventually it became clear at a meeting of the Planning Department that the construction of a breakwater (wall) in Sauteurs had never been approved.

In relation to the people on the beach, those who might have need of emergency accommodation, due to their houses on the beaches being destroyed by the encroaching sea, were assured that there is funding for payment of rent for up to six months, they were also told that they are eligible, by application, for consideration for the new affordable homes built in the Villa in Sauteurs.

It was also stated that a different payment structure would be applied, there was no comment from the floor with regard to this matter.

The meeting concluded with the members of the community group resolving to find answers, in relation to the road and the beaches, in other quarters.

Kriss Davies

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