The impacts of (de)commonisation

Sand mining significantly impacts coastal-marine ecosystems by increasing erosion and sedimentation, which affects food webs and degrades species’ habitat (Torres et al., 2017). Furthermore, the impacts of sand mining are compounded with other activities, some of which are related to development in the tourism sector:

There are other issues, too. There are issues of sand mining, you know, we have situations where people go to the beach and take buckets and buckets of sand, so you have erosion issues being compounded by the fact that people are building drains in a way that might not be taking into account sediment transport systems. You have sea walls going down in the same vein, so there have been a number of direct impacts on the coast from these tourism plans.


The combined environmental impacts of sand mining, resort development, and other drivers have implications for other livelihoods, such as small-scale fisheries - an issues found in other parts of the globe as well (Marschke, 2012; Marschke et ah, 2014). Either through displacement, or by impacting fish habitat, these drivers can be problematic:

development poses a lot of challenges and when you take the beaches and develop the beaches then it hampers the fishers, like the hotels that build near to the sea shore bring more pollution to the sea shore [and they] become like the container port in Campden Park which was a beach where I live. The container port [took] up almost the whole beach, so then that part of my livelihood - I have to say - [it has] been bothered there. So, we see some changes; we see some changes in erosion, because sand mining has taken a lot of the sand from the beach and you find the water come into the land and when the water mix with the dirt, because the sand is already removed, it brings more erosion around there and have the water dirty for some time, so some changes do happen.


Is governance changing?

Governing and managing the issues discussed above often requires multilevel and multisectoral approaches to account for the diverse and interconnected resources, uses, and users involved (Epstein et al., 2015; Pittman and Armitage, 2017). While much of the current governance system in the Lesser Antilles region can be characterised as top-down or command-and-control (Scobie, 2016), there is some evidence to suggest that more collaborative and networked forms of governance are emerging (Pittman and Armitage, 2019). These developing modes of governance likely do not replace top-down approaches, but can co-exist to produce, or attempt to produce, more sustainable patterns of resource use. For example, the following system in Antigua and Barbuda demonstrates how a top-down regulatory approach can be used simultaneously with a more networked approach that involves multiple government agencies:

We developed an application process for anyone choosing or wishing to mine gut sand, which is coming down from the hills along the stream way. It’s a cooperative work between APUA, Forestry, the Environment Division, and Extension. ... The application process requires a signature from the Forestry officer, a signature from the Environment officer and a signature from the APUA Water manager. So, it’s a system that we had tried to develop to cut down on illegal mining of gut sand. And not just that but put a more structured approach to extraction, because an individual would just go down with their bulldozer and trucks and dig ad hoc and just destroy the banks and such. What we have done is that we made it a requirement that they get an engineer to make the assessment to determine how it’s going to be extracted, and we will tell them how much we are going to allow them to extract. The engineer would say how much can be safely extracted, and then we would look at it and determine whether this engineer’s report stands any weight. And then we will determine okay, we will move ahead based on this. But all of this would be covered by the applicant; they will make the application, they will pay for all of this thing, and then we will, “Okay, no problem”. They will go ahead with the extraction and we will have an officer on site watching to ensure that they’re doing what they say they’re going to do.


There are also emerging opportunities to manage and govern these issues at the community-level. Communities in the region often have many latent capacities to address sustainability challenges, and finding ways to connect and mobilize these latent capacities can be especially important to advance governance (Epstein et ah, 2015; Pittman and Armitage, 2019). The following example from Grenada demonstrates local leadership and the need to connect with community-level institutions (i.e., religion) to address a suite of sustainability challenges:

There’s one thing that you would realize in the Caribbean, people do love their religion, and if it’s one thing that’s able to get people to actually do positive things in the community, it’s the church ... this is one great story of one of the beaches here in St. Patrick’s called Mount Rodney. It’s just plagued with a lot of problems- illegal dumping; legal and illegal sand mining. ... We tend to see with a lot of beaches in the area that it’s connected to a river, the river sort of flushes everything out to the beach. And so, you have a lot of dumping in the river, that gets pushed out into the beach. And so, there’s this one guy who basically has claimed the beach as his own, and just for himself, without getting any sort of compensation for himself, is just cleaning the beach, getting people organized to raise awareness; when the turtles come up, he’s patrolling in the night.


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