Outspoken environmental advocacy and education organization Save The Bays today redoubled its support for the government’s plan to rebuild storm-ravaged Ragged Island with sustainable design and renewable energy sources, creating the first fully green island in the region.
“The Bahamas now has an opportunity to become a regional leader in mitigating against the effects of climate change with the initiative the Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis and his team of environmental engineers announced following their visit to Ragged Island, witnessing the devastation firsthand,” said Save The Bays Chairman Joe Darville.
That visit and the pledge that followed took place in September and Save The Bays said it is eager to learn of progress but remains hopeful that government was sincere.
“Our hearts go out to those in Ragged Island who weathered the storm either on the island or elsewhere and now have little left but their incredible pioneer spirit. We understand their pride when they say they lived a long time without government and they don’t need government to tell them they can or cannot return home and how they should build. But these times are not like the times of old. We live in a new age when the warming of the waters and rising seas are combining to create more powerful storms and potentially deadly storm surges. The Prime Minister and his team recognize that with virtually every single building on Ragged Island lashed by winds or devastated, now is the time to build right for the future.”
Save The Bays’ positive response came on the heels of the announcement by the Prime Minister that government wanted to evacuate remaining residents temporarily to allow crews to move in and clean up the destruction left by Hurricane Irma. The storm that made history for the length of its intense winds at more than 140 mph and for days at 180 smashed into the tiny 9-square mile island as a Category 5 and demolished everything in her path. The roof of the small schoolhouse was ripped off. All that remained of the teacher’s residence was a pile of wood planks. Not a single building was left unscathed. More than a week later, there is no electricity or power. There is great fear of disease. Carcasses of animals killed by the storm remain.
Clearing it all away will spell the beginning of a new life for Ragged Island, says the current government and Chester Cooper, Opposition Member of Parliament for Exuma and Ragged Island, agrees.
“If they are able to do as they say and create coastal zones that require a different building code including structures that are substantially higher off the ground to allow water to flow through in case of a storm surge, and if they use all renewable sources of energy, Ragged Island can become a model for sustainable development in the face of climate change,” said Darville, a certified climate change leader who trained under former US Vice President Al Gore who first brought climate change to the attention of a public that did not want to believe the reality that would be facing them in generations to come.
Minister of Environment Romauld ‘Romi’ Ferreira, a veteran environmental attorney, and consultant, also fully supports the plan.
“We can no longer continue to put hydro and electric on these flood-prone, low-lying coastal islands and expect them to survive the conditions that climate change will dictate,” said Ferreira. “What happened in Ragged Island is heartbreaking but sometimes it takes a tragedy to make us look at things with new eyes and a fresh perspective. This is a golden opportunity to rebuild and get it right. Ragged Island could become the model.”