On this World Environment Day we celebrate some of the natural beauty of our Barbados including the beaches, tropical flowers, gullies, and caves.
About Our Beaches
Beaches form a vital part of the social life of the island as well as supporting economic activity in the form of tourism, watersports, and fishing.
Barbados is a coral island, with mostly white sandy beaches. This is unlike many of the other islands of the Caribbean which are volcanic in nature and therefore have mainly black-sand beaches.
Yet even within small Barbados there is great diversity of coastline - from the lively coast of the south, to the high cliffs and mighty waves of the north. The tranquil waters of the west coast are gloriously contrasted by the surf and rugged coastline of the east.
The Top Challenges
Rising sea levels pose a real threat to small islands such as Barbados, contributing to erosion of our beaches.
In recent years there has been a significant influx of Sargassum seaweed (algae) which discolours the normally turquoise waters and decomposes on the shore, restricting use of the beaches by locals and visitors.
How We Respond
The Coastal Zone Management Unit is responsible for:
Shoreline Protection: monitoring and inspecting the coastline, and designing coastal protection structures such as groynes and breakwaters.
Marine Habitat Management: conservation of marine habitats such as the coral reefs around the island, and the mangroves.
Development Control: assessing potential commercial developments in coastal areas and advising the Town and Country Development Planning Office of environmental considerations.
The National Conservation Commission carries out Beach Management duties including daily cleaning, beach risk analysis, and beach stability mapping.
Both the private sector and Government are working to capture Sargassum seaweed offshore and collect it onshore, with some projects focussing on using the seaweed in commercial applications such as fertilizers.
Ongoing educational campaigns raise awareness of the need to be respectful when using the beach, including proper disposal of garbage waste.
Tropical Flowers & Gardens
About Our Flowers
Driving around Barbados is a delight for the senses, with tropical beauty all around. Hedges of colourful bougainvillea; hibiscus flowers of various hues fluttering in the breeze; the sweet smell of frangipani blooms; and the much loved seasonal poinsettia and Christmas Candles in December.
In 2019, the National Botanical Gardens was opened with the long term goal of creating at global garden. This is well underway with trees and flowers already planted by visiting dignitaries from around the world.
How We Protect Them
The Plant Protection Department of the Ministry of Agriculture works to ensure the plant health and biodiversity of the island. It does so through a number of measures including inspection of imported plants, research with respect to pest and disease management, and provision of environmentally sound control practices.
Traditionally Barbadian homes include an area of land, however small the plot, in which we take great pride. These are usually planted with herbs, fruit trees, and flowering plants. Hibiscus and bougainvillea are among the favourites of homeowners.
About Our Gullies
The gullies of Barbados act as natural watercourses and catchment areas, with rainwater seeping through gully beds into the rocks below to be filtered naturally on their journey to becoming drinkable water. They are also home to many wild plants (some with medicinal properties) and animals (monkeys, mongoose, etc) and so play a vital role in our ecology.
The gully network criss-crosses the island and it has been estimated that there are almost 20 distinct gully systems. These multi-branched systems converge at various points, draining into the mangroves, springs, inland catchment areas, and the Constitution River.
I highly recommend a visit to Welchman Hall Gully and a hike through Jack-In-The-Box and Lancaster gullies.
The main threats to the gully system of Barbados are (1) improper disposal of garbage and (2) residential and commercial developments.
How We Protect Them
Government’s Integrated Gully Ecosystem Management Plan seeks to minimize the loss of gullies to development, encourage responsible use of the gullies for hiking, walking, research and education, and conserve the biodiversity of these habitats.
While there are strict laws on the book prohibiting illegal dumping in gullies, there are still many who engage in this disgusting practice with very few ever appearing before the law courts. Communities, hiking groups, and environmental organizations routinely undertake to clean up the gullies.
About Our Caves
The gullies that we described above are in fact collapsed limestone caves. Welchman Hall Gully is connected to Barbados' most well known cave - Harrison’s Cave. With its magnificent stalactites and stalagmites, flowing streams, and emerald pools it truly is a wonder of nature.
Coles Cave, located in a center of the island, is best traversed with a local guide. Water continuously runs through the cave forming small pools along the way.
For a more tranquil experience head north to Animal Flower Cave, a fascinating cave with dramatic openings to the Atlantic Ocean and colourful rock formations.
Reckless commercialization of local caves is perhaps their greatest threat.
How We Protect Them
The operation of Harrison’s Cave includes ongoing monitoring and management of the environmental health of the cave, with an emphasis on cave stability, and the quality of air and water in the cave.
About World Environment Day
Since 1974 nations around the globe have celebrated World Environment Day (WED) on the 5th of June. In 1987 the concept of rotating the focal point of WED through host countries was started, and in 2014 Barbados was the host nation under the theme "Raise your voice not the sea level".
The week-long celebration highlighted the dangers posed by climate change, and especially rising sea levels, to small island developing states such as Barbados and its Caribbean neighbours.
United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon remarked: “I urge everyone to think about the plight of Small Island Developing States and to take inspiration from their efforts to address climate change, strengthen resilience and work for a sustainable future. Raise your voice, not the sea level. Planet Earth is our shared island. Let us join forces to protect it.”