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Joined: Oct 1999
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Marty Offline OP
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With all the talk about global climate change and man-made environmental issues, it's easy to lose sight of actual people being affected by changes beyond their control.� Tonight, Duane Moody has the story of a small place and small group of residents who are literally watching the Caribbean Sea swallow their community.� They keep moving their houses, even the tombs of their loved ones, trying to keep one step ahead of Mother Nature.� But will it work?� And what else can be done?� News Five travelled south looking for answers.��

Duane Moody

"Approximately twelve miles down this dirt road rests the coastal community of Monkey River. One of the oldest and most remote villages in the country, residents say that Monkey River was once a thriving town."

Raina Garbutt, Vice Chair, Monkey River Village Council

"It used to be a town in the past then it reduced to a village and now I will say it is just a settlement because it's like approximately two hundred and fifty people here, like fifty-two homes here."

Due to erosion and climate change, Monkey River has been dwindling - not only in population size, but also in land mass.

Raina Garbutt

"It has taken lot of our homes already. We have had to relocate. Some of the homes that already relocated, the water is there already again at their doorstep. Every year to me, it is getting worse and worse. The water tends to come in closer and closer to our homes."

Duane Moody

"Approximately five years ago, the southernmost part of Monkey River Village was a couple hundred yards away near that septic tank in the distance. Since then, this entire area is under water.� Families had to relocate and as we can see today, they might have to relocate again once again."

Arieann Muschamp, Resident, Monkey River Village

"We're the last house in the village, so we were the closest to the cemetery. And the erosion just keeps coming like normal and we had to relocate. My mom relocated to this house, but as you can see now, the house is already twenty to forty feet by the water shore again. So we believe the only thing that's helping the house is this tree. So the moment this tree falls, we are back at square one again.� We were okay at first and then people tried to help. We used sandbags, we used post with tires, but after a while, nothing helps. It just washes away again and nothing we try helps."

Fishing and tourism are the lifeblood of the traditional Creole community which sits at the easternmost tip of Toledo District.� But their way of life is under constant threat. Over the last two decades its sandy beaches have washed away, residents have been displaced from their lands which are now part of the sea, and as the water inches closer to homes, even the dead are being affected as a portion of the cemetery is submerged. These decades' worth of changes have been witnessed by Godwin Coleman, the eldest man in the village.

Godwin Coleman, 81-year-old Resident, Monkey River Village

"A house mi deh about a mile from here and actually the house weh mi deh deh had land in front and all of that gone.� When yo deh out deh, yo could look right dah Punta Negra."

Duane Moody

"But now yo can’t?"

Godwin Coleman

"Now yo can’t. Yo have to go ina canoe."

Raina Garbutt

"The cemetery is already under water. Well the biggest part of it, the front, is already. Some of the graves have already been in water, wash away. We had to relocate – some of them that were in tombs, they just move the tomb higher beucase people loved ones are there. And yes they are already gone, but we have feeling."

So what happened? A 2021 assessment carried out by Cuban experts revealed that coastal erosion is evident in areas such as Dangriga, Hopkins and Monkey River.� The Monkey River Watershed Association contends that the root causes of the erosion are complex.

Mario Muschamp, President, Monkey River Watershed Association

"The attention about this erosion started back in 1998 right after Hurricane Mitch. And since then, we have had Hurricane Iris which devastated this area and right after Hurricane Iris, we had earthquake in 2009 - that actually sunk the place a bit. Apart from climate change and sea level rise and all of that, we still believe that one of the biggest problems that we are seeing with the erosion here comes from the activities that's happening on the watershed."

It is believed that the watershed has lost its capacity to push beach-building material down the river and replenish the coastline.

Mario Muschamp

"During flood times, it flushes out beach building materials to the sea and then with currents and wave action and the wind, then that brings it back to the coastline and replenish what was taken naturally. That function is not happening anymore on the watershed. For several reasons from what we can see. That includes agricultural practices on the watershed as well as gravel and sand mining that is taking place on the watershed."

Godwin Coleman

"Some people say dah banana, di cause dah banana. But when I know ih wash weh no banana, no drain neva deh."

Duane Moody

"So maybe that just make it worse?"

Godwin Coleman

"I feel soh."

Given the fading situation, is Monkey River Village at risk of being wiped off the map? The reality is that many have migrated to urban areas for various reasons, but for the two hundred and fifty persons still living there, Monkey River is home. Arieann Muschamp fears that this historic village may become just a memory.

Arieann Muschamp

"We have no other choice. Relocate to where? We don't want to move because Monkey River is home. Monkey River is always gonna be home. So it's sad."

Duane Moody

"You think it's pushing that you guys might have to leave the village completely?

Arieann Muschamp

"If it doesn't stop, for sure. Without a doubt we'll have to move."

Duane Moody

"Is it frightening?"

Arieann Muschamp

"Of course it is. Sometimes it is like what will happen to my generation, the generation after mines? Nobody is gonna know what Monkey River really is - the beauty of Monkey River."

Association President Mario Muschamp says that over the years, several assessments were conducted by Galen University, Doctor Peter Esselman and the U.S. Geological Survey.

Mario Muschamp

"For us, first and foremost is try to keep what we have and not lose anymore. So that will require us to start doing some sort of coastal protection, mitigation work outside here to address the issue of not losing more than we already loss. And then work on the watershed and restoring that so that then that can start putting back those sediments out that will replenish on the beach naturally. We have come up with a plan called the roadmap for the restoration of the functions of the Monkey River Watershed and we are currently, through the Monkey River Watershed Association, seeking funding to implement that plan."

Channel 5

Joined: Oct 1999
Posts: 84,398
Marty Offline OP
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So why is Monkey River Village Drowning? Climate Change and Human Activities Combine

Tonight we share a part two on the plight of Monkey River, a small village where residents are trying to save their culturally rich community from becoming just a memory. Now reduced to only fifty-two families, the eroding landscape and encroaching sea threatens their homes. They may have to relocate entirely since the end of the village is swamp. Tonight we turn to the technical experts, who from as far back as 1998 spoke to News Five about the importance of the Monkey River watershed, and the impacts of activities along the river.� And as we found out, climate change has only speed up the erosion situation over the years and the situation is becoming dire.

Duane Moody, Reporting

From as early as the 1990s, beach erosion has been wreaking havoc in the quaint Creole village of Monkey River. As we've been documenting the changes over the years, white sandy beaches where tourists and residents alike would gather, have been washed away. Acres of land that were once populated with homes are now under water.� The village keeps getting smaller and the once vibrant community is disappearing as the waves come in closer. Repeating natural disasters over the last two decades, including hurricanes Mitch and Iris, as well as an earthquake have ravaged the community. Climate change has exacerbated the situation.

Dr. Colin Young, Executive Director, CCCCC

"The sea level is rising and it rises based on what we have been able to ascertain as three to four millimetres per year. And while that sounds very tiny, the rule of thumb is that the relationship between sea level rise and flooding is one to a hundred. So if there is a one inch rise in sea level, it floods a hundred inches of beach. Because the sea level is rising and the amount of sand getting to the coast is not able to replenish the sand that is being eroded by the wave action, then more and more the erosion increases and it speeds up.

Mario Muschamp, President, Monkey River Watershed Association

"Apart from climate change and sea level rise and all of that, we still believe that one of the biggest problems that we are seeing with the erosion here comes from the activities that's happening on the watershed."

Upper river activities, which include sand mining, agricultural farming and deforestation, have - as News Five has documented for decades - been identified as the main cause of the erosion happening in Monkey River. Research from as early as 1998 reflected this.

Eugene Ariola, Oceanographer, Coastal Zone Management Project [File: January 14 th , 1998]
"The supply of sediment is being reduced because the water does not have the force to wash down the sediment to the beach. The force of the water is being reduced because of abstraction for irrigation to water Banana farms, Citrus farms and Mango farms, and water is being abstracted for Aqua culture and also water is being transferred from one water shed to another. This is all creating an accumulative effect on the river and therefore on the beach at Monkey River village."

About a decade later, in 2007, Galen University was commissioned by the Protected Areas Conservation Trust to carry out an assessment of the watershed in the Monkey River.� Doctor Colin Young was among the experts who undertook the comprehensive task. The findings were shocking.

Dr. Colin Young

"We estimated, if my memory serves me right, that there were over two thousand feet of land that has been lost. We calculated that millions of millions of gallons of waters were being removed out of the river, going onto the farms and then the water was being returned to a creek named Black Creek and so that water never returned back into the main channel of the river. There are all of these areas that had these huge pipes that were extracting this water. The second reason was that a large amount of the river sand used in the construction industry was being mined from the river. What mining does, it does two things: it widens the river channel because as you pull the material, the channel of the river is getting wider and wider and it is getting deeper and deeper."

Channel 5

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