During the latter half of the 1970's there was a growing concern over the perception of coastal erosion affecting the developing coastlines of Barbados . The concern was highlighted mainly as an economic one affecting the individual property owner and in the longer term having potential impact at the national level since the tourism industry was fast becoming the primary source of foreign exchange at that time. The media drew attention to this issue by depicting undesirable changes occurring along the coastline. These changes were considered to represent an economic physical and social threat to the island. This resulted in the concept of coastal zone management (CZM) being seen solely as a means to address the issues causing beach erosion, thereby ensuring that benefits from the tourism industry were safe guarded . This was especially important since the island by the early 1980's had set a course for economic development, which until then heavily relied on sugar for economic development to one that relied almost exclusively on beach tourism (i.e. sand, sea and sun). CZM in Barbados was therefore considered to be a problem solving activity in coastal conservation - the problem being beach erosion and within a wider context a rapidly developing coastal fringe.
The Government of Barbados responded in 1983 by starting a project funded by the IDB called the “Diagnostic Study and Pre-Feasibility Coastal Conservation Study. The consultants were Proctor and Redfern were hired to undertake this project which was designed identify and the analyse causes of coastal erosion and to make recommendations for solutions. At this time, the Coastal Conservation Project Unit (CCPU) was formed a temporary agency in Government to execute the first project and the Unit was located at Savannah Lodge in the Garrison. The first Project Manager was british-born Dr Gillian Cambers.
Once the CCPU had an understanding of coastal errosion the Coastal Conservation Feasibility and Pre-Investment Study, also funded by the IDB, was implemented from 1991 to 1995. The consulting firms for this project were Delcan and Willms and Shier. The reults of this study was the following:
- The establishment of the Coastal Zone Management Unit as a permanent agency of Government after the Willms and Shier reports recommended it, detailing the areas of expertise and training required, and the positions to be established.
- Testing of strategies for beach creation in pilot projects at Paynes Bay (revetment), Reads Bay (split breakwater), Accra (breakwater).
- Completion of the ICZM Plan for the South and West Coasts.
- Establishnment of the coastal water quality program.
- Drafting of the Coastal Zone Management Act and the Marine Pollution Control Act
The CCPU Project Manager for the Coastal Conservation Feasibility and Pre-Investment Study was Leonard Nurse who became the first Director of the CZMU.
- Diagnostic and Pre-Feasibility Study of the North, East and South East coasts:
- Development of CZM Plan for the coastal zone
- Institutional strengthening for the Unit
- Completion of feasibility design for the Investment Programme (Phase II)
By early 2000 the CZMU began to realise that there was a need for more shoreline stabilization and erosion control measures to mprove to latteral access along Barbados' coastlines and to areas vulnerable to coastal hazards. These concerns resulted in the Coastal Infrastructure Programme (2002-2009) which built on designs developed as part of the previous studies. The consultant for this programme was W.F. Baird & Associates Coastal Engineers Ltd.
The programme consists of the following six (6) engineering projects however, due to constraints only 3 of these projects were completed:
- Crane Beach Improvements Project
- Holetown Beach Improvements Project (Completed)
- Holetown Lagoon Water Quality Improvement Project
- Rockley to Coconut Court Waterfront Improvements Project (Completed)
- Tent Bay Boat Access Improvement Project
- Welches Beach Improvement Project (Completed)