Chief Sec: Tobago needs $1 billion to fix eastern coastline

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

THA Chief Secretary Farley Augustine. – File photo

THA Chief Secretary Farley Augustine says Tobago needs at least $1 billion to rehabilitate its eastern coastline.

He made the disclosure on June 5 at the Shaw Park Cultural Complex. Augustine said Tobago, like many small island states, was on the frontline of environmental challenge.

“Climate change, rising sea levels and biodiversity loss are not distant threats. They are realities we face today,” he said. “A single assessment done along our eastern coastline of Tobago returned with an assessment that says we must find at least $1 billion if we are to fix what is happening along our eastern coastline, if we are to have a fighting chance against rising sea levels. So there is an actual cost attached to the actual challenges we face.”

Speaking to reporters after his address, Augustine said that in 2022, the THA and Caribbean Development Bank had done an analysis of the entire eastern coastline, from Scarborough to Charlotteville.

“We also looked at Pigeon Point, we looked at Grange and we looked at Plymouth. We estimate that we would need about $1 billion to fix the coastal erosion problem, especially along the Windward coast of the island. We don’t have anywhere close to that money in terms of development spend.”

He added, “If you realise, every time you talk budget and Tobago, I make it a point to separate what is recurrent expenditure. Recurrent expenditure is what is used to pay bills, salaries. “But on the development end, which is what we need to build roads and to do coastal protection, that has been the area I have been arguing, and the arguing has been woefully underbudgeted for, under-allocated for. Certainly, we will never have that amount of money anywhere and that will require permission to either borrow, or funding from somewhere else.”

In the meantime, Augustine said residents must be creative in terms of how the island responds to the impact of climate change by ensuring those who live along the coast change their living practices and manage simple things like water run-off. “If as an island we maintain some healthy practices, especially with our reefs, then we will give our coastline a fighting chance, because our reef systems, in fact, provide a much-needed layer of protection for the coastline for which we don’t have the money.”

Earlier in his remarks, he said the environmental challenges Tobago is currently grappling with also present opportunities for the island and the country, by extension, “to innovate and inspire the world with our actions.”

Augustine said Tobago’s response to the February 7 oil spill, which affected some 15 kilometres of the island’s southwestern coast, is a case in point. He thanked the Ministry of Energy, THA, Tobago Emergency Management Agency and other entities for their efforts to eradicate the oil spill and rehabilitate the coastline.