CHARLESTOWN NEVIS (December 21, 2006)
Illegal sand mining continues to be of grave concern to officials of the Ministry of Physical Planning and issued a warning that persons caught involved in this activity, risked prosecution for violation of the environmental protection laws of St. Kitts and Nevis and called for the public’s assistance to apprehend perpetrators.
The warning came from Mr. Ernie Stapleton, Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Physical Planning Natural Resources and the Environment, in an interview with the Government Information Service, while on a site visit at Dogwood Estate on the south coast of Nevis, on Thursday December 21, 2006.“Under the National Conservation and Environmental Management and Protection Act St. Kitts and Nevis, it is illegal for anyone or any company to remove sand from the beaches of Nevis“¦ I would just like to appeal to the public to be the eyes and ears of the people of Nevis with regard to sand mining because there are certain penalties that are involved when persons illegally mine sand such as the payment of fines, seizing of equipment and vehicles and even imprisonment. We normally work with the police with regard to sand mining,” he said.
He explained that despite the noticeable ongoing illegal sand mining at Dogwood Estate, similar activity had been observed at Indian Castle, one of two areas at Herberts Beach and Paradise Beach.
The Permanent Secretary said that one of the selling points of Nevis with regard to its tourism product was its beaches and the removal of sand affected the scenic beauty of the island and its coastline. He indicated that the removal of sand inevitably led to loss of land which made it difficult for replenishment of the sand.
However, Mr Stapleton lauded the efforts of the Planning Unit, who he said had been doing a good job of monitoring the beaches on Nevis.
“They have data that is telling us how the high water mark is moving, whether we are losing beaches or not, what the movement is like with the change in the climate and the weather patterns and they have the data. They are not only physically looking at what is happening on the beach but they actually take measurements and what they are noticing is that, we are losing our beaches for a number of reasons and sand mining is just one area that would worsen the situation.
“It [illegal sand mining] would deface the country, remove the barrier protection and create problems [for] turtles that nest on the beach and other natural vegetation”¦The most important thing is we can’t do it by ourselves we need the assistance of the public to be the ears and eyes of the people of Nevis because if we destroy the beauty of Nevis then we will not have anything to sell to the world in terms of tourism,” he said.
He appealed to truck drivers and companies on the island to desist any involvement the illegal practice.
Meantime, Ms. Rene Walters a Planning Unit Officer, one of three on the site visit explained, while the Unit monitored the beaches every three or four months and engaged in beach profiling, they had discovered that the area at Dogwood Estate was a major nestling sight for the hawksbill turtle and that illegal sand mining had increased in the area.
“Over the past few months we have observed ramps being built here going down to the beach and we have seen tractor and backhoe tires and trucks in the area. They have been mining sand on this beach. It started in one area and now they have continued to the western part of this beach.
“As a small island we depend on tourism and it’s a major part of our economy and if we continue to remove the sand from the beaches what’s going to be left? So it is important to keep our natural resource which we can depend on,” she said.
According to Ms. Walters, removal of the sand contributed to beach erosion and the southern side of Nevis had been more severely affected than other costal areas on the island. She attributed erosion to tidal change, removal of sand from the beaches and weather conditions.
Notwithstanding, she said the Unit had kept open communication between quarry owners and truckers on the island and they would continue to do so but the Unit had been encountering difficulties to access areas where suspected perpetrators operated.