Week-long climate change discussions – Flooding can affect heritage sites

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

National Trust chairman Margaret McDowall, centre, with Kishan Kumarsingh, left, of the Ministry of Planning and Development and aquatic ecologist Dr Ryan Mohammed at the trust’s Keeping History Above Water workshop at the Hyatt Regency on Tuesday. PHOTO BY AYANNA KINSALE –

The impact of climate change on heritage sites in TT will assume full focus this week as academics, researchers and businesspeople from various countries began a series of discussions on the issue as part of the Keeping History Above Water workshop and conference on Tuesday.

The workshop is part of a joint exercise between the National Trust of TT, the University of Florida’s Historic Preservation project, the US-based organisation the Craig Group Partners with funding from the US Embassy in TT.

The conference will facilitate discussions between various stakeholders and formulate recommendations on how to mitigate the destruction of historical sites from climate change.

Speaking at the reception on the second day of the conference at the Hyatt Regency Hotel on Tuesday, Minister of Planning and Development Pennelope Beckles-Robinson says the workshop forms part of the Resilient Heritage project initiated by the National Trust which aims to study the impact of climate change on heritage sites.

She thanked regional and international partners for uniting to address climate change, noting that their efforts would help reinforce the government’s efforts in establishing policies and programmes to mitigate the effects of sea level rise.

Referring to Nelson Island off the coast of Carenage, City Gate and the St Vincent Jetty Lighthouse in South Quay, Port of Spain, Beckles-Robinson said these sites were among the main focus of the Resilient Heritage project and was optimistic the information shared from the workshop could shape climate change responses.

“Port of Spain is well known to have been the subject of a series of land reclamation projects in the 19th century which laid the way for growth and development and which helped shape the capital into the bustling city that it is today, however this historical fact is also a contributing factor to the city’s vulnerability and Port of Spain has not been spared from major flooding events which continue to affect thousands of lives and livelhoods.

“Resilient Heritage Trinidad and Tobago also involves engagement with stakeholders, data-sharing and knowledge transfer and information being gathered throughout the course of the project will ultimately feed into the creation of conservation and adaptation management plans with prioritised recommendations for the preservation and ongoing maintenance of the named heritage sites.

“Furthermore the project is intended to serve as a model that can be replicated to increase climate resilience for many other heritage sites across Trinidad and Tobago and the wider Caribbean region.

“As minister with overarching responsibilities for both climate change and heritage preservation issues and the national trust of Trinidad and Tobago, I am deeply grateful for the invaluable contribution of the US government to these efforts.”

Also attending the workshop was US Ambassador Candace Bond who stressed the importance of collaboration between different countries and sectors to effectively tackle climate change concerns.

Bond said her country’s government was committed to promoting the protection of historical sites, noting that the effects of climate change were very visible in TT through flooding.

“Mitigating and addressing climate change is a shared goal of ours, it is a shared goal for the people and government of the United States and people and government of Trinidad and Tobago and we are very proud to be your partners in this effort.

“In Trinidad and Tobago, climate change and the rising sea level affect everything, one can see the damage from persistent and devastating flooding which occurs almost everytime there’s a torrential rainfall especially during high tides, we need to change how we think about the infrastructural design of our cities, ports, agriculture, housing and public buildings and we need to consider climate change on food security and economic development.

“Our grant to the National Trust will provuide some of the data to inform how we change our thinking on design.”

The grant is US $190,960 provided through the US Ambassador’s fund for cultural preservation.