November 23, 20121490Views

23 November
– Throughout this week, the Virgin Islands has been benefitting
from visits from experts in landslide and coastal hazard management.

Dr. Aurelio Mercado Irizarry, who specialises
in coastal hazards, is a Physical Oceanographer at the Center for Coastal
Hazard in the Department of Marine Services at the University of Puerto Rico,
Mayaguez. He has spent the last four days visiting the eroding coastlines of
Keel Point and West End in Anegada to assess the damage caused by storm surge

On Tuesday Dr. Mercado made a presentation of
his findings to representatives from Town and Country Planning Department, Conservation
and Fisheries Department, Lands and Survey Department, Building Authority and
the Department of Disaster Management (DDM) following two days of site visits
on Anegada.

Dr. Mercado said, “Many beaches and sandy
islands are disappearing as a result of sea level rise.  Measures from tidal gauge in Puerto Rico show
that in September of this year all historical records for monthly average sea
level elevations had been broken for sea level rise and it is expected that the
levels for October will be even higher.” 

He further said, “The sea level rise trends
from as far back as 1955 show a trend of 1.57mm per year. Since 1993 the rate
of sea level rise has gone close to 3mm per year for San Juan. This is
contributed to water expansion that occurs during the summer as a result of
monthly record air temperatures. I would recommend that the DDM examine tidal
gauge data from stations such as those on St. John and make a similar
comparison for the BVI.”

Dr. Mercado added, “When you think of
an island like Anegada, these environmental changes will have a significant
impact on any development planned.

After visiting the vulnerable coastal areas
around Anegada and Tortola, Dr. Mercado met with representatives from the Lands
and Survey Department and Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Natural
Resources and Labour, Mr. Ronald Berkley to further discuss the current
situation and to provide recommendations on how to address the coastal erosion
concerns occurring throughout the Territory.

Also visiting the Virgin Islands this week is
Dr. James Joyce, an Engineering Geologist from the University of Puerto Rico,

Dr. Joyce, a Landslide expert, is currently
conducting geological assessments on some of the Sister Islands with the
intention of improving the hazard maps and data available for the entire Virgin
Islands. Due to the recent development throughout the Territory it became necessary
for geological assessments to be carried out so that the hazard data available
through the National Geographic Information System (NGIS) can be improved and
updated for planning and development activities. Dr. Joyce completed similar
works on Tortola, Virgin Gorda and Jost van Dyke in 2011 and presented new
slope/cut ratio maps to building professionals at a workshop held in August,
2011.   During this week Dr. Joyce is carrying out
works on Frenchman’s Cay, Norman Island, Cooper Island, Mosquito Island, Necker
Island and Guana Island.

Drs. Mercado and Joyce’s visits were
facilitated by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), under the Regional
Risk Reduction Initiative (R3i) and through an existing agreement between the
University of Puerto Rico Mayaguez and the Government of the Virgin Islands.
R3i is funded by the 
European Commission
who allotted €4.932M
to the R3i Project, covering a period of 4 years from 2009 to 2012.