By Marion V. Ali
Rapid beach erosion has been the hot topic of discussion in Monkey River Village. The village, located in the Toledo District, has been experiencing severe beach erosion since 1979.
Hurricanes Mitch in 1998 and Iris in 2001 sped up the process and the result has been a noticeable disappearance of the shoreline. But in recent weeks, strong tidal waves have again quickened the pace of the beach erosion.
Chairman of Monkey River, Richard Pitts, told The Reporter that last week in particular, “the erosion picked up pace because of strong winds and an extremely high tide that pushed the water onto the streets.” This caused significant damage to the shoreline, Pitts said, and this time, the water reached the southern part of the village near its burial ground.
“The beach now starts at some people’s yards”, Pitts lamented, as villagers try to devise a land reclamation program to salvage their once bustling village.
Since the erosion first started almost four decades ago, Monkey River’s population has dwindled from around 1,000 to 200, because many of the people lost their land to the sea and many others moved away in search of employment opportunities. Pitts says that the erosion since ‘79 has caused two rows of street with all their land including 10 homes, to be lost to the sea.
“We have tried two different kinds of land reclamation programs, one with sandbags and another with trees and tyres near the shoreline,” Pitts said.
“But over time, they disintegrated and disappeared into the sea.”
The last effort made several years ago finally gave in to the crashing waves about four years ago, Pitts said, and now the villagers are about to embark on another program, which includes planting coconut trees along the beach.
The village council has called in the National Emergency Management Organisation (NEMO) to inspect the damage and ask for assistance.
Pitts blames the erosion squarely on bad practices of some banana farms which lie upstream from the village. He said some farms have cleared away land all the way up to the riverside, built mini dams, and used excessive amounts water on their crops, which eventually wash into the river. The result, he said is that the river does not have a normal water-flow and this impedes the normal movement of the sand downstream.
Monkey River Village was declared a town in 1891. At the time there was a booming banana industry which helped create a robust population of 2,500. The township was downgraded to village status in 1981.