Residents of this once pristine island believe protected wetlands could be under threat from new round of dredging activities
Distraught residents are calling on the Ministry of Environment to urgently investigate a new round of dredging off the coast of Guana Cay, Abaco, which they fear is leading to the destruction of invaluable areas of protected wetland.
Having been forced to watch helplessly while the fragile offshore reef system suffered extensive damage over the last five years due to the controversial Baker’s Bay development, locals now want the government to step and save what is left of this once pristine island before it is too late.
“Just when we thought it could get no worse, we find that the developers dredging at the north end of the island,” said Troy Albury, president of the Save Guana Cay Reef Association (SGCRA).
“A powerful dredger has been on site since September 2014. It is digging huge holes in the sand bank on the bay side of Baker’s Bay. When you drive by you can the see the bank scarred by huge holes where the dredge has sucked up the sand and pumped it inland.”
Albury noted that according to the law, permits must be issued for every dredging event in The Bahamas. He said residents want the authorities to verify whether or not this current work has the proper authorization.
“We also want confirmation of where the spoil is being pumped. The dredging is clearly not for maintainence of keeping a channel clear for navigation,” he said. “From what we can see, it appears that the dredging is occurring over a wide area, with the sole purpose of filling in low-lying areas so those can be sold to build houses on.”
Albury said locals are unable to verify this for themselves, as for years they have been denied access to Baker’s Bay – and are even blocked from using a portion of the publicly owned Queen’s Highway that passes through the property.
“We can’t see where the spoil from the dredging is ending up. They are pumping it inland through 12-inch pipes and the fear is that sensitive wetlands are once again being filled in,” he said. “We are particularly concerned about certain areas of key ecological significance, which according to the heads of agreement for Baker’s Bay, are not to be disturbed.”
He said this anxiety has only been heightened by the developer’s continued neglect of several other obligations under the agreement.
These include commitments to build a community center, reserve the water sports business exclusively for Bahamians, create a beach park, build a solid waste facility for the whole island, and provide housing for police officers.
“In addition to that, there were also promises of environmental monitoring, and none of that ever came into play,” Albury said.
From 2004 to 2009, the SGCRA, in conjunction with fast growing social and environmental movement Save The Bays (STB), mounted a groundbreaking legal campaign against the Baker’s Bay project, which elevated the issue of unregulated development to the level of national attention.
STB chairman Fred Smith said Guana Cay is a perfect example of the destructive power of the “Anchor Project” theory of national development, which ruins tradition communities, often without living up to the many promises made by the developers and the politicians who facilitate the deals.