A Focus on the Environment and Natural Resources of St. Vincent and the Grenadines in Particular, on Land and Land Resources
September 28, 2018
A Focus on the Environment and Natural Resources of St. Vincent and the Grenadines in Particular, on Land and Land Resources

This special edition is one of the activities being implemented in support of the European Commission Funded project entitled “Technical Assistance for the Establishment of Natural Land Policies” a sub-component of Island Resilience (ILand) Project. The project is being implemented in Four Member States of the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) – Anguilla, British Virgin Islands, Grenada and St Vincent and the Grenadines.

The main output of the St. Vincent and the Grenadines component of the project is the preparation of a National Land Policy which is intended to help guide the present and future development of the country.

This special edition is part of a concerted effort by the project to provide information to stakeholders and to the public in particular, on and about the project, particularly in SVG.
Other elements of the public awareness programme include;

Convening of a National Consultation on Natural Resources Management with Particular Reference to Land Resources Policy. The National Consultation was convened on 29-30 November 2017, and covered more extensively later in this special Edition.

Dissemination of Information via Social Media Platforms. You can participate in the discussion by using these links: Twitter: https://twitter.com/SVGiLand Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/SVG-ILand-1309992619127073/ The production of a number of T.V. documentaries on key land management issues in S.V.G including an overview of the Draft National Land Policy. These will be aired on the local T.V. channel.

Establishing the Context

The National Economic and Social Development Plan (NESDP0) of St. Vincent and the Grenadines, 2010-2025 identifies five strategic goals:

Goal 1 Enhancing competitiveness

Goal 2 Enabling Human and Social Development

Goal 3 Promoting Good Governance and Public Administration

Goal 4 Improving Physical Infrastructure and preserving the Environment

Goal 5 Building National Pride, Identity and Culture.

Ten objectives are listed under Goal 4 – Improving Physical Infrastructure and Preserving the Environment. One of these objectives is “to conserve the natural resources of the country through effective utilization and management”. It also highlights to optimize the limited land space”, “ensure an adequate, sure, reliable and sustainable water supply”, pursue appropriate measures to manage biological resources”, “ensure a clean, safe and healthy environment”, “enhance the country capability to effectively prepare and mitigate all disasters, including reducing the environmental and development impact of climate change” and to upgrade the country’s infrastructure including roads, air transport etc..

In essence Goal 4 provides a context for many of the issues which can be addressed within the context of the formulation of a National Land Policy.

Land and Land Resources and its Components

Land and Land Resources as a delineable area of the earth’ terrestrial surface, encompassing all attributes of the biosphere immediately above or below this surface, including those of the near-surface climate, the soil and terrain forms, the surface hydrology 9including shallow lakes, rivers, marshes and swamps), the near-surface sedimentary layers and associated groundwater and geohydrological reserve, the plant and animal populations, the human settlement pattern and physical results of past and present human activity (terracing, water storage or drainage structures, roads, buildings, etc.) (FAO/UNEP, 1997).

When we speak of Land and Land resources it, therefore, includes our soils, rivers, lakes, watersheds, nature reserves and forests biodiversity resources. It also includes human settlements – roads, building etc. – which are the result of past and present human activity. Husbandry of these resources as highlighted by the Economic and Social Development Plan of SVG is a sin qua non for a country’s development.

This brings us to the second question – the dimensions of land and land resources management and administration.
Firstly, is land and its attributes such as physical characteristic such as terrain, soils etc. and the constraints nature impose? As an example, in the case of St. Vincent, the island is volcanic and consists of steep mountain ridges and valleys. The backbone of the mountain extends from north to south. The topography of the island influence other factors such as rainfall, vegetation and human settlement patters.

Secondly, there is the juridical dimension which deals with issues relating to the ownership of land and the rights associated therewith. In the case of SVG, the crown owns approximately 60 percent of the total land area, the remaining 40 percent is in private ownership. It goes without saying that Government can have and has a profound effect on land policies. In addition to the role of the Executive Branch of Government, the judicial arm of government is the Court which also plays an important role, particularly as it relates to disputes relating to land and land resources.

Thirdly, there is the regulator and administrative dimension which deals with the processes associated with the transfer of land. In this regard, these are many institutions which have the responsibility in law for carrying out the functions associated therewith. For example:

The Registrar of Deeds Lands and Survey Department Physical Planning Unit Fourth, there is the fiscal dimension of land administration which comprise of a number of elements – collection of revenue via land taxes, the charging of rent for the use of crown lands, for the enjoyment of parks and protected areas and the sale of land.

Fifthly, there is the information and knowledge management dimension. The main institution is the land valuation department and the Ministry of Finance.

Sixthly, is the management – how is land and land resources are managed and husbanded. This is a collective effort involving various stakeholders – the owner of the resource, the community and the officialdom. Prior to the “development” of the “resources” the necessary precautions should be taken to minimize the negative impacts of that development – be it a road, housing infrastructure.

Continuous monitoring is necessary to ensure the minimization of the issue which must result from the “use” of these resources and to take action to address should they occur.

Many institutions have keys roles to play in the management of land and land resources. In the case of agricultural lands this responsibility is in part assigned to the Department of Agriculture;

in the case of forests and protected areas the Forest Department Infrastructure and works department and in case of the environment in general the Environment Unit/Division which has a very important role to play with respect to environmental and resource management.

Since SVG is part of the Community of Nations policies designed and implemented on and about Land and Land Resources is influenced by external facts, in particular the international legal instruments to which the country is a Party.

At the sub-regional level, SVG is a party to the Revised Treaty of Basseterre; the regional level SVG is a party to the Revised Treaty of Chaguaramus including the CARICOM Single Market and Economy and at the international level, SVG is a party to a large number of Multilateral Environmental Agreements including the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification.