The Smart Fight Against Beach Erosion and Natural Disasters in Barbados

The construction of a kilometer-long boardwalk between Rockley and Coconut Court on the southern coast of Barbados is not only a tourist attraction—it also provides safe access to beaches and has increased beach width by nearly 20 meters.

The six-to-twelve-foot deep boardwalk and its related engineering infrastructure represent the culmination of a series of measures that have propelled Barbados to the forefront of coastal management in Latin America and the Caribbean. Working with the IDB since the 1980s, the country has successfully established the legal and institutional framework needed to protect its coast and has acquired the technical know-how to assess, monitor, and manage complex physical processes that shape its coastline.

Want to learn more?

Download our Development Effectiveness Overview

Check out our blog Development that Works

With that knowledge and institutional capacity in place, Barbados has been able to implement coastal infrastructure works that are environmentally sustainable and resilient to natural disasters, and that utilize the most advanced engineering techniques to limit maintenance costs over time.

Given its comprehensive approach to coastal and marine management, Barbados is considered today a best-practice model for the Caribbean. From 2002 to 2009, the country built headlands, breakwaters, retaining walls, and walkways and revetments to stabilize its shoreline and control beach erosion on the south and west coasts. The key for Barbados to design and carry out cost-effective sustainable beach nourishment operations has been understanding shoreline dynamics based on the best available scientific data and cutting-edge technology that takes into account disaster risk and the impact of climate change.

The country’s coastal management has been a boost to the tourism industry, which employs nearly half of the population. With hazard-resilient infrastructure and safer access, the island’s beaches become more attractive for tourists, helping increase revenues of local businesses. According to a 2009 survey, half of business respondents in the areas benefitted by the projects indicated that monthly revenue increased by as much as 5 percent.

And it doesn’t hurt to have beaches that are larger. As a result of the project, beach volume has increased by 26,000 cubic meters, which amounts to an increase in average beach width of 20 meters. You can see it all…on the boardwalk!