Land Degradation Control Works Inside The College Street Ghaut Continues

Work crews installing gabion baskets

Basseterre, St. Kitts, May 15, 2020: The Department of Environment (DOE) is the lead agency with funding from the Global Environment Facility (GEF) in implementing a project in St. Kitts and Nevis titled “Addressing Impacts of Acute Land Degradation in the College Street Ghaut in St Kitts and Quarries and Sand Mining Hotspots on Nevis.” One of the major project activities is the installation of land degradation control measures inside the College Street Ghaut.

For many years, the public has been exposed to excessive soil erosion and flooding in and around the College Street Ghaut.  The impacts of this land degradation are far-reaching and include public health risks due to flooding and inappropriate disposal of liquid and solid waste as well as loss of top soil, poor water quality at the outlet of the ghaut and contamination of the near shore environment.  Works to reduce and control land degradation inside the ghaut are a critical first step leading to a more proactive way of managing this important environmental zone.

The works began in earnest in January 2020 after a clean-up exercise where excess vegetation and solid waste were removed from the ghaut. The project was aided by the Parks and Beach Unit and a private contractor.  The focus of the current works will be on the middle section of the ghaut (approximately 2000 feet) from the bridge adjacent to the Moravian Church up to the bridge that crosses the F.T. Williams Highway. The works are about mid-way through completion. The Public Works Department has been working in close collaboration with the Department of Environment to ensure the success of this project.

The main land degradation control measures being implemented are gabion baskets and planting of grasses and trees.  These will be strategically located inside the ghaut in order to stem soil erosion.

A gabion is a galvanized wire cage, cylinder, or box filled with materials like concrete, stones, sand, or soil. When filled with these materials, gabion structures act as building blocks and become a powerful and cost-effective defense against erosion.  The baskets are used to maintain stability and to protect streambanks and beds.  Gabion baskets have been utilized in the Federation of St. Kitts and Nevis for many years especially in the agricultural sector (notably during the times of sugar manufacturing) as a means of soil stabilization and soil conservation along the banks of major ghauts.

The installation of the baskets requires specialized and experienced labour and is very time consuming.  The work crews must ensure proper placement and stability of the baskets.  These works will also rehabilitate weirs (or retaining wall structures) that were installed inside the ghaut over 50 years ago.  The weirs act as a barrier for soil and when cleaned in a timely manner avoid large volumes of soil from entering the coastal zone.  Excess debris and sediments are also being cleared from culverts and drains including at the outlet of the ghaut at the Bay Road.

Grasses with deep root system such as vetiver grass and trees will be planted along the banks of the ghaut.  These plants hold the soil together especially on streambanks where runoff is present. They also slow storm water runoff as trees are heavy drinkers and disrupt the overland flow of water and reduce flooding.

The public has an important role to play in addressing the impacts of land degradation in the Federation especially in and around ghauts.  We must work together to ensure there is no illegal dumping of solid and liquid waste inside of the ghaut.  These pose a major flooding and public health risk and contribute to increased soil erosion.  In addition, livestock farmers should refrain from allowing their animals inside or near to the banks of the ghaut.

St. Kitts and Nevis is one of ten participating countries in a 5 year multi- focal regional project termed the Integrating Water, Land and Ecosystems Management in Caribbean Small Island Developing States project (GEF-IWEco).  The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) is the lead Implementing Agency in partnership with The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).  The United Nations Environment Caribbean Regional Coordinating Unit (CAR/RCU) and the Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA) will serve as co-Executing Agencies.

For more information about the IWEco project, please contact the Department of Environment or:

Dr. Halla Sahely

GEF IWEco SKN Project Coordinator