Archive | Environmental Protection Act

Organization of American States issues Ruling and decision in favor of Save The Bays

On November 4th, 2016, the Inter-American Commission of Human Rights at Organization of American States in Washington issued its resolution with respect to precautionary measures.

The Commission decided to request that the Government of the Commonwealth of The Bahamas adopt precautionary measures regarding the matter of reference.

Read the full Ruling here.

It is a comprehensive, detailed and hard-hitting  ruling; it basically finds  that the Government of The Bahamas has failed to take measures to protect, investigate and/or prevent the threats of death, defamations, harassment campaign and intimidation that our members have been subjected to over these last few years, despite our continuing complaints to the Police and the authorities to intervene.

The Government is now required, in accordance with its international treaty obligations at the OAS, to take positive and demonstrable  action to the members of Save The Bays and to regularly report its efforts to the Commission.

We urge you to read the ruling in its entirety. 

It is hard hitting.

The Commissioners of the Organization of American States do not mince words.

And they explain in great detail some of the factors and elements which led them to make this damning decision.

Read the full ruling here.

 

Civic Leaders ‘Never has the need for transparency been more critical’

With donations pouring in from around the world in the wake of Hurricane Matthew, the need for transparency and accountability is critical if The Bahamas is to remain a reputable recipient of international beneficence, say civic leaders.

“Never has the need for transparency been greater,” said Joseph Darville, Chairman of environmental advocacy organization Save The Bays. “Since Hurricane Matthew, we have had many offers of assistance. We explain the needs, how many homes are without roofs, how many families have been displaced, how many businesses cannot open their doors because they were flooded and lost everything. But what we cannot explain when asked is who is overseeing efforts and what is the level of accountability? Donated goods come in but without a transparent government reinforced by Freedom of Information legislation, we cannot offer potential donors of large sums the comfort that we have legislation that would allow the public to see how funds were spent if we submitted a request.”

image002The aftermath of the Category 4 storm that levelled parts of Grand Bahama, Lowe’s Sound, Andros and damaged much of the southern short of New Providence rekindled the push for strong freedom of information legislation. Save The Bays is one of 17 professional, civil society, environmental and business organisations that joined forces to push for the legislation. Government had promised to table a revised freedom of information bill this month but postponed, blaming the delay on the storm.

Attorney Lemarque Campbell, president of Citizens for a Better Bahamas, said the cloud of secrecy that surrounds closed door deals and contract awards must end.

“There are only a handful of countries in the world in which the citizenry has no legislated rights to know what the government does,” said Campbell. “Unfortunately, that handful of countries that favours secrecy over transparency still includes The Bahamas. But I am confident that with all of our voices calling for true freedom of information we will get there. We just have to keep up the fight and not give up.”

The groups that united over freedom of information also submitted comments on the draft bill along with several recommendations. Among the most important were an independent Information Commissioner with its own fixed budget and whistleblower protection

Others, including Organization for Responsible Government (ORG), are also pulling for an ombudsman to liaise on behalf of the general public, campaign finance reform and access to procurement contract processes.

The 17 groups calling for true freedom of information represent thousands. They include Citizens for a Better Bahamas, The Bahamas Chamber of Commerce and Employer’s Confederation, Bahamas Federation of Retailers, We The People, The Abaco Chamber of Commerce, Save The Bays, The Nassau Institute, reEarth, Organization for Responsible Governance, HeadKnowles, Grand Bahama Human Rights Association, Waterkeepers Bahamas, The Bahamas Press Club, Our Carmichael, It’s Our Turn and Young Marine Explorers.

Waterkeepers Bahamas wants to bring awareness to the issue of Oil Pollution to Clifton Bay.

International Experts Tour Clifton Bay, View Oil Pollution Up Close,

Waterkeepers Bahamas Hopes Global Interest Will Help Shed Light, Provide Solutions

  

International experts, including a former presidential advisor, toured Clifton and the Southwest Bays recently, their boat slicing through the water between oil slicks and coasting over reefs as they witnessed the sharp distinction between some of the world’s most beautiful waters and the oil pollution threatening its health and the fish, conch and crawfish that call it home.

Joe Darville

Waterkeepers Bahamas President and Save the Bays Chairman Joseph Darville (above) recently participated in a boat tour of the oil-polluted Clifton Bay along with international experts, including Waterkeeper Alliance Executive Director Marc Yaggi who told his colleagues the only way to prevent environmental catastrophes from continuing to escalate in The Bahamas is by taking steps to ensure transparency and accountability through enactment of Freedom of Information legislation and a comprehensive Environmental Protection Act.

“What we saw breaks your heart,” said Joseph Darville, Chairman of Save The Bays and President of Waterkeepers Bahamas, an organization licensed to monitor Bahamian waters. “This is an area where many Bahamians who lived in Nassau used to come to fish. There were live coral reefs with thousands and thousands of mutton snappers, grey snappers and other species. This is no longer the case. Due to the so-called development in this area, it has been saturated with oil and the reefs in the vicinity have died.”

The two-hour boat excursion, videoed and recorded by a local company, also included fellow Save The Bays members Rashema Ingraham, Diane Phillips and Paco Nuñez as well as representatives from Clifton WaterkeeperBimini Waterkeeper, and Grand Bahama Waterkeeper. The outing was part of a day-long trip arranged in cooperation with Marc Yaggi, Executive Director for Waterkeeper Alliance, one of the world’s fastest-growing environmental movements comprised of 293 Waterkeeper organizations in 34 countries on six continents, who together patrol and protect nearly 2.5 million square miles of watershed.

“I snorkelled at the same reef I had snorkelled about eight years ago,” said Yaggi, who travels the world inspecting changes in the marine environment as part of Waterkeepers’ long-range goal of cleaning up the world’s waters, creating more areas where water is drinkable, fishable and swimmable.

“It was very obvious that the reef had undergone significant stress. There were fewer fish and the coral had clearly seen better days,” he said. “The Waterkeepers team showed me more of the dark underbelly of this tropical paradise. We saw massive oil plumes fouling some of the clearest waters on earth. The stench of oil was dizzying.”

Save The Bays, a burgeoning environmental advocacy group that was initially established for the purpose of preserving and protecting Clifton Bay and other common marine environments surrounding New Providence, has garnered upwards of 7,000 signatures on a petition calling upon the government to take positive action to protect against devastating threats to the country’s marine environment, namely oil pollution in Clifton Bay as well as the toxic runoff resulting from unregulated development.

“It’s very important that we protect our natural resources and find a balance between development and environmental protection for the benefit of future generations of Bahamians,” said Nuñez, press liaison for Save The Bays. “If we are not careful about how we develop them, we stand the chance of severely compromising the natural advantages of our country.”

As one of its main tenets, Save The Bays has repeatedly spoken out against unregulated development like Simm’s Point/Nygard Cay, a development which international conservationists, including Waterkeeper Alliance members, have called a tragedy due to the fact that construction of groynes and jetties associated with the project have blocked the flow of sand into Clifton Bay ultimately leading to the erosion of Jaws Beach.

Nuñez pointed to a lack of transparency and accountability in Bahamian government as the greatest obstacles to achieving justice for the environment in The Bahamas, a point which Yaggi himself discussed with the Waterkeeper community during his recent visit.

“Information is power and that forces a level of transparency which will allow members of the community to follow along as important decisions are being made,” Yaggi said. “The lack of a Freedom of Information law is typically the result of having people in leadership who don’t want the public to know what’s going on. They want to keep their actions hidden, and there’s a reason behind that, so shining a light on that is incredibly important.”


Waterkeepers Bahamas works to promote the availability of clean water on three waterbodies in Bimini, Grand Bahama and Clifton & Western Bays on New Providence so that these waterbodies are swimmable, fishable and drinkable for future generations. The organization is a proud member of the Waterkeeper Alliance, the world’s fastest growing environmental movement that has united more than 290 Waterkeeper members and affiliates around the world, all working together to focus citizen action on issues that affect our waterways, from pollution to climate change.  If you are aware of pollution, unregulated development or other illegal activities taking place in the area please contact Rashema Ingraham via phone 242-602-7531 or send an email to 
waterkeepers.bahamas@gmail.com. For more information on The Coalition to Protect Clifton Bay petition, please visit https://www.change.org/o/protectcliftonbay

NGOs challenge Christie’s environmental claims

Fred Smith

STB and GBHRA to seek joint United Nations hearing to respond to the prime minister’s comments at summit on sustainable development

 

 

Two local NGOs have accused Prime Minister Perry Christie of preaching environmental stewardship abroad but riding roughshod over the concept at home – and announced their intention to seek a joint hearing before the United Nations to set the record straight.

 

The groups said Christie’s recent speech at the UN Sustainable Development Summit was completely at odds with the reality in The Bahamas today, thanks in no small part to the actions of his government.

 

“Save the Bays and the Grand Bahama Human Rights Association were in equals parts pleased and shocked to hear Prime Minister Christie express his support for sustainable development during his speech in New York,” said Fred Smith, QC, a noted attorney who works with both non-profits.

 

“As Christie told the summit, nothing could be more important to our future than for the government to truly recognize the value of maintaining a people-centered, planet sensitive and inclusive approach to development.”

 

Smith said STB and the GBHRA wholeheartedly agree with Christie’s comments regarding the critical importance of ensuring a sustainable future for present and future generations; one which does not sacrifice the country’s treasured natural resources at the altar of short-term gain, only to leave citizens wanting and deprived of basic needs in the future – both environmentally and economically speaking.

 

“The problem is that Christie’s speech smacked of insincerity. While impressing on the UN The Bahamas’ belief in the responsibility of every country ‘to protect the earth, its resources and its people’ his government’s actions tell a radically different story. It is a story of might makes right and a willingness to sell off our most precious assets to the highest bidder,” Smith said.

 

“Building the stronger and more sustainable Bahamas to which, according to the prime minister, his government is committed means not abandoning the rule of law for the benefit of favored foreign developers, in the process ignoring or even seeking to silence the voices of local people who have concerns about how major developments will destroy precious environmental resources and established community traditions.

 

“There is nothing sustainable about development which effectively denies those who are most affected the chance to have a say in their future. Yet this is the type of development that Christie’s government has shown it is willing to promote and encourage time and time again.”

 

“It certainly does not mean government lawyers demanding public interest groups provide hundreds of thousands of dollars up front if they wish to mount a legal challenge over a developer’s plans to irreversibly damage world-renowned reef sites.”

 

Such action, as has been seen in the case of the Bimini Bay development and several others, in no way fits with Christie’s claim to the UN that his government wishes to ensure “the protection of our oceans and its species”, Smith said.

 

“Sadly, the incongruity between Christie’s words and his action when it comes to the environment are plain to see for anyone who takes the time to check,” he said.

 

“His insincerity threatens our credibility as a nation. We should not be surprised if other countries, when called upon by Christie to lend a hand to reduce the climate change that disproportionately threatens our shores, scoff at our ‘do as we say, not as we do’ approach to these matters.

 

Smith said insincerity when it comes to protecting the environment does not breed confidence among the Bahamian people, nor on the international scene.

 

“Local activists believe it is time Christie’s actions fit his speech when it comes to sustainability and we intend to raise the matter of this government’s doublespeak in a hearing before the UN, to which the GBHRA is an accredited NGO,” he said.

 

“We have already begun reaching out to the UN and other international partners, and will appraise the public of our progress in this regard in short order.”

World Papers Focusing Eyes on Bahamas Environment

Save The Bays Legal Action Capturing International Headlines

 

newspaper-collage

A series of legal actions filed by the environmental organization Save The Bays and making their way to the highest courts in the Bahamian judicial system are attracting international attention with stories in papers and online publications from Canada to Italy, Germany to New Zealand.

“The fact that what we are doing here is generating headlines thousands of miles away is proof that people care about the environment. It’s as simple as that,” said Fred Smith, QC, Callenders & Co. Managing Partner, Grand Bahama, and Legal Director of Save The Bays, an association partnering with several environmental groups but often taking their requests a step further, right into court.

Since its founding one year ago April, the group has filed five separate legal cases, more than an environmental organization in Bahamian history. Even as it has asked the court to review ongoing oil pollution in Clifton Bay and to free eight penned dolphins from a tourist excursion it says provides sub-standard inhumane treatment in violation of the country’s own Marine Mammals Protection Act, Save The Bays’ popularity has soared. The start-up group has more than 16,000 Likes on Facebook, breaking another record for a non-governmental or non-profit in The Bahamas, and nearly 6,000 signatures on a petition it will soon present to the Bahamian prime minister.

But what has encouraged its members and directors most is the hundreds of inches of news coverage its activities have generated in publications as diverse as the Winnipeg Free Press and the UK’s ultra-conservative Guardian.

“It’s been amazing,” said Sam Duncombe, founder of reEarth and a Save The Bays director who fought for dolphin protection for 24 years before a Supreme Court judge in The Bahamas agreed with reEarth and Save The Bays’ petition to close a facility at Blackbeard’s Cay which the two groups argued was opened without the proper permits and which it claimed subjected its captive dolphins to what it called heartbreaking treatment, including lack of shade or protection from storms and being kept in water far too shallow to meet even the lowest standards. It was also claimed the facility threatens a proposed national park because of the waste material produced by the dolphins.

While the tourist attraction has six weeks to appeal, the headlines have carried the news of the ruling to millions. “From online publications like www.geapress.org in Italy to all sorts of publications in Germany and elsewhere, we are heartened by the interest this story has generated. I am confident it signifies a global trend in awareness for dolphins as the splash and flash attractions that are so cruel for the health and well-being of dolphins gives way to sea-pen sanctuaries.”

If dolphins touch heartstrings, the image of 007 and a famed beach and bay where James Bond and Jaws movies were filmed is giving rise to the most headlines. Located a half hour’s boat ride away from the harbor where the dolphins are penned, the much-photographed Jaws beach on Clifton Bay are the centre of attention in two other law suits filed by Save The Bays. Dealing with unregulated development, one of them is seeking a judicial review in a case involving Canadian-born fashion designer Peter Nygard who has nearly doubled the size of a property he bought in The Bahamas in the 1980s, adding what has been estimated at $30 million or more in value by blocking the flow of sand to the nearby public Jaws beach and accreting land on which he has built a Mayan-themed residential and resort complex. Nygard, who has temporarily been halted by the court, is seeking permission to expand. Despite Save The Bays case citing the prime minister and others for allowing the land acquisition to continue for so long, the names James Bond and Nygard and Jaws beach have been like magnets to foreign media captivated by the case.

“Peter Nygard received a setback in current legal challenges in the Bahamas,” wrote the Winnipeg Free Press on July 24 under the headline “Setback for Nygard in Bahamas.” The July 21 Toronto Globe & Mail carried a headline “Fashion entrepreneur Peter Nygard in Bahamas environmental feud.” That story included the words: “The billionaire who owns a large property in the Bahamas that has been featured on Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous and in Forbes magazines, faces allegations from local residents and environmental groups who say he has been expanding his massive estate without regard for the environment.” On July 12, the UK Guardian splashed a headline “Sean Connery joins Bahamas campaign to stop billionaire developing mansion.” With a full colour half page photo of Daniel Craig coming out of the water clad in a bathing suit, the Independent July 14 carried a headline ‘Famed Jaws Beach at Risk. “That story noted that the Bahamas government ordered Nygard to return his property to its original size. But the Canadian claims the beach around his home has been created naturally and said that since the government has changed, the order no longer stands.” And the Toronto Star on July 24 chimed in with the headline, “Canadian mogul’s Bahamian paradise stirs up controversy.”

Save The Bays Hosts Leading Environmentalists’ Bahamas Tour

Clifton Bay Tour – Six leading international environmentalists prepare to tour Clifton Bay off New Providence’s southwest coast July 29 with a small group of local concerned citizens as part of a visit hosted by the marine environment advocacy group Save The Bays.

Clifton Bay Tour – Six leading international environmentalists prepare to tour Clifton Bay off New Providence’s southwest coast July 29 with a small group of local concerned citizens as part of a visit hosted by the marine environment advocacy group Save The Bays.

Six leading international environmentalists are in The Bahamas today to witness firsthand the state of marine life in a country known for the beauty of its turquoise seas. United by their desire to preserve and protect the Bahamian environment, the group includes, among others, the recipient of a U.S. presidential award for environmental conservation and prominent scientists committed to the survival of sea turtles.

Hosting the group is Save The Bays, a growing environmental movement comprised of Bahamian and international members dedicated to protecting the Bahamian environment through proactive policy change, education, legal action and advocacy. Save The Bays aims to unite stakeholders and combat the environmental threats currently jeopardizing the nation’s unique marine environment.

“Having such experienced and committed conservationists survey the various threats to our marine environments points to the increased international attention that is being focused on The Bahamas,” said Save The Bays CEO Lindsey McCoy. “These international conservationists recognize the critical importance of safeguarding the Bahamian environment, and we are honored they are taking the time out of their busy schedules to share their perspectives and expertise on how to protect our magnificent resources.”

Many of the attendees are members of the Waterkeeper Alliance, a global movement of 220 local “Keepers” that fight to stop polluters, protect their chosen waterways and champion clean water as a fundamental human right. The delegation includes Rachel Silverstein, Biscayne Bay Waterkeeper, Gabrielle Parent-Doliner, swim guides affiliate at Lake Ontario Waterkeeper, Archie Carr, who works for the Sea Turtle Conservancy, and Marydele Donnelly, also of the Sea Turtle Conservancy, Sharon Khan, Waterkeeper Alliance International Director, and Alex Matthiessen, former CEO and President of Hudson Riverkeeper, the original “Waterkeeper” and New York’s leading clean water advocate. As a special assistant at the U.S. Department of the Interior, Matthiessen received a Presidential Award for his work using America’s national parks to showcase, for millions of visitors each year, the home-scale application of renewable energy and energy efficiency. In addition to McCoy, local Save The Bays participants include directors Joseph Darville and Fred Smith, QC.

“This is a great opportunity to learn from experts who have turned their passion for protection of the world’s waters into viable volunteerism,” said Darville. “We have the most beautiful waters in the world and we are now in the process of organizing ongoing monitoring, a very ambitious goal, so our eyes and ears will be wide open to hear and benefit from what others have been doing in their parts of the world and providing advice for how we can best move forward with developing monitoring methods, schedules, a roster of volunteers, boats, recording and reporting equipment.”

The Bahamas Waterkeeper visit runs from July 29-31 and includes one Family Island visit.

More Court Action Ahead As Christie Govt Sidesteps Law

Originally published in The Punch

By Nicki Kelly

July 24th, 2014

Between the Lines

Two landmark judgement by the Supreme Court last week represented an important victory for environmentalists.  But more than that, they showed that the Christie administration cannot be trusted to uphold the laws of the land.

Instead, it is prepared to bend the rules to accommodate unscrupulous investors engaged in activities detrimental to the country’s land and marine environment.

So endemic is this disrespect for the law, the government may be faced with yet a third action after a parliamentary factotum provided another investor with a Letter of Intent without the Cabinet’s knowledge or sanction.

The environmental advocacy group Save The Bays (STB), which means to end these back door deals, contends that the “cosy relationship” between politicians and developers has led to a “scourge” of unregulated development that threatens to destroy the country’s natural resources.

In the case of the controversial Nygard Cay development, Save The Bays was granted an injunction restraining the Prime Minister and his Cabinet from making any decisions regarding any applications submitted by Canadian businessman Peter Nyagrd until mid-August.

In addition, both the STB and a group of more than 100 Lyford Cay residents and property owners were given permission to apply for separate judicial reviews to examine: 1) Whether Mr Nygard had the proper permits to build his Mayan-themed resort and 2) Whether the government’s so-called consultation process preliminary to approving the Nygard applications was valid.

To prove that the system of “reciprocal favors” has reached into the highest levels of government, the STB produced a 1992 letter sent by Mr Nygard to then Cabinet Minister Perry Christie emphasising his financial contributions to the PLP.

In exchange he wanted Mr Christie’s help in finalising the re-naming of Simms Point to Nygard Cay, and the granting of a lease for Goulding Cay, a popular fishing spot and bird sanctuary.

he said he would appreciate the government getting both things “done quick” ahead of an upcoming Forbes magazine story and Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous TV shoot at his development.

To make sure Mr Christie got the message, he pointed out that: “The whole world is based on one hand helping the other, and you know I am prepared to do whatever is in my capacity to help out the Bahamas and the PLP party and of course yourself.”

An inter-party hearing of the STB injunction is scheduled for August 12.  Meanwhile, the government’s consultation process remains on hold.

In the case of Blackbeard’s Cay, the court found numerous instances in which the government failed to follow the law during the application process by Blue Illusions, the company running the facility.  In addition, Blue Illusions was allowed to create and operate a marine mammal enclosure in contravention of the relevant regulations.

Acting on an action brought up by the environmental group reEarth, which visited the Blackbeard’s site and catalogued a long list of violations, the court ordered the tourist attraction to restore the Crown Land to its former state and to return the eight captive dolphins that were being kept there under “inhumane” conditions.

The 21-page judicial ruling did a number of things including restraining the Town Planning Committee from issuing site plan approvals without public consultation.

It also quashed Prime Minister Christie’s decision, as the Minister responsible for Crown Land, to allow Blue Illusions to carry out construction of the facility on Crown Land without site plan approval, and to operate a captive marine mammal facility without a premises license as required under the Marine Mammal Protection Act.

The judge cited the Prime Minister; Agriculture and Marine Resources Minister V Alfred Gray; Michael Braynen, Director of Fisheries and Marine Resources; the Town Planning Committee and Blue Illusions for violating the rules of law, rushing through conditional approvals, breaching statutory duties and ignoring numerous pleas for information, which the court said “appeared to have fallen on deaf ears.”

In pointing out the significance of the court decisions, Fred Smith, the lead attorney for Save The Bays and reEarth, said they addressed the need to obey the law and the need for public consultation.

“Until our governments do the people’s business in the open with the people’s knowledge and ability to contribute, we will continue to be surprised by developments that ave been planned for us even if we do not want them in our back yard,” he said.

The defendants have six weeks to appeal before the dolphins are moved.

In the third case, which has not yet reached the courts, but may well do so, Renward Wells, the parliamentary Secretary in the Ministry of Works, took it upon himself to Sign a Letter of Intent giving a foreign investor the green light to proceed with plans for building a $675 million waste-to-energy plant.

Works Minister Phillip Davis and Environment Minister Kenred Dorsett have since denied any knowledge of the arrange with Stellar Waste-to-Energy Bahamas, arguing that a LOI required Cabinet approval and a parliamentary secretary was not authorised to sign it.

Stellar’s principal Dr Febrizio Zanaboni has said that as far as he is concerned the signing between his company and the government is valid, and he now intends to move ahead in preparation for building his multi-million dollar plant within the next six months.

This leaves the government with its ass in a sling and facing a potential court action.  Dr Zanaboni has also made clear that his plans for the New Providence landfill cannot co-exist with those of RENEW Bahamas with whom the government does have a signed contract.

Meanwhile in a televised interview with NB12 that was notably incoherent, Works Minister Davis admitted that he and the Prime Minister had met with Mr Wells, but seemingly didn’t bother to ask him why he signed the LOI.  As he told NB12: “I am prepared to meet with Mr Wells again to hear his explanation.”

Muddying the waters still further, he added that it was a question of whether Mr Wells did anything or whether he did nothing that was contrary to established protocols.  “I am going to look into these things and discuss them with him and get his explanation for what he did and test that explanation,” he said.

However, the final word from NB12 was confirmation that Mr Wells had been asked to resign, which he said he is prepared to do while insisting that he had not benefited in any way as a result of signing the LOI.

In Mr Wells defence, he didn’t do anything that the PM hasn’t already done, when as Minister responsible for Lands and Surveys, he usurped the authority of the Director of Physical Planning by signing off on the application by Resorts World Bimini to begin dredging operations in Bimini.

If Mr Wells has to go, so should BEC Chairman Leslie Miller, whose transgressions far outweigh those of Mr Wells.

However, the supreme irony was Mr Davis’ garbled assessment of the Wells-Zanaboni LOI.  “There appears to be a germ out there that business people would look to embrace,” he said.  “They engage in practices that sometimes lend itself and does not promote their own cause and causes challenges in considering their cause.”

The same can be said of the Christie administration.

GB aragonite mine project branded a ‘job killer’

SPEAKING OUT - Deputy chairman of the Sweeting’s Cay township Shervin Tate is asking the PLP government which he supports to reject a proposal to mine for aragonite in East Grand Bahama.

SPEAKING OUT – Deputy chairman of the Sweeting’s Cay township Shervin Tate is asking the PLP government which he supports to reject a proposal to mine for aragonite in East Grand Bahama.

Local government official says East End proposal would destroy prized fishing grounds that have sustained entire communities for generations

Plans to mine for aragonite in the heart of East Grand Bahama’s prized fishing grounds will destroy hundreds of jobs in the surrounding communities, a local government official has warned.

Shervin Tate, deputy chairman of the Sweeting’s Cay township, said the proposed project is slated to create a mere 60 jobs but will destroy more than 300 – some of them very lucrative – and devastate one of the country’s most beautiful and bountiful marine habitats.

“Once you start to dredge, the conch will disappear, the lobster will disappear, and then you will see a disaster in our community,” Tate said, explaining that silt from the mine will suffocate all marine life for miles around.

“That is why I call it a job killer,” he said.

Appearing as a guest on Love 97FM’s radio show ‘Voice of the Bays’, Tate explained that most residents of the area earn a solid living as either bonefishing guides or commercial fishermen.

“You have fishing lodges that have spent $40-50 million in the east, and they are paying Bahamians $1,500 to $2,000 a week and they depend heavily on Bersus Cay as somewhere to take those guests,” he said.

“The average fisherman can go out to Bersus Cay, and if you are going out for lobster, you can get a hundred pounds of lobster that can get you $1,100. You can come back with 200 pounds of conch and that will get you $600. Imagine that this is taken away from you – and most of the time when they do these things they come back and want to give you minimum wage jobs.”

Tate said the fishermen of his community will face the prospect of having to leave their families for extended periods to toil away at a dusty mine site, just to earn in a week what they used to earn in a single day.

In addition to professional fishermen, he added, many Bahamians rely on the area to help feed their families, especially in hard economic times.

At a recent community meeting, a young woman explained that although she is a trained accountant, she has never been able to find work in the stagnant Freeport economy, and the abundant fishing grounds now under threat have been a saving grace.

“You could see she wanted a job but couldn’t find one, but she could depend on going out to Bersus and getting her 150 pounds of conch a day and come back home make 400-odd dollars and take care of her three, four, five kids,” Tate said.

“That is really my concern, hearing those kinds of stories every day. As a representative for the people, it touched my heart.”

A longtime campaigner for the PLP, Tate said he knows that in Perry Christie, the country has a sensitive and intelligent leader who will be willing to scrap the proposed mine once he understands what is at risk.

“Being a hard PLP, I want my government, my prime minister, to understand the need that is in East Grand Bahama.

“He is a good man and I know he will listen to the voice of the people,” he said.

Tate also issued a video message to residents in Nassau (http://bit.ly/1l1HkXL), asking them to stand in support of the people of East Grand Bahama.

The radio show “Voice of the Bays: The Environment Speaks”, hosted by fast-growing advocacy group Save The Bays, explores issues such as environmental conservation, social justice and the rule of law in the Bahamas. It airs on Love 97FM every Monday at 5-6pm.

The show is an important part of the wide-ranging educational platform of Save The Bays. Since its launch a little over a year ago, the organization has catapulted to prominence, attracting more than 500 registered members, 14,000 Facebook followers and 6,000 signatures on its petition calling for an Environmental Protection Act, a Freedom of Information Act, and to unregulated development in The Bahamas.

Sustainable development is good for business Ferreira tells Chamber of Commerce stronger environmental policies will lead to lower operating costs

 

NATURAL PARTNERS – Environmental attorney and Save The Bays director Romi Ferreira told the Chamber of Commerce’ national conclave that commercial and environmental interests go hand in hand. Ferreira is pictured speaking during a panel discussion with Minister of State for Investments Khaalis Rolle (centre) and Minister of State for Financial Services Ryan Pinder.

NATURAL PARTNERS – Environmental attorney and Save The Bays director Romi Ferreira told the Chamber of Commerce’ national conclave that commercial and environmental interests go hand in hand. Ferreira is pictured speaking during a panel discussion with Minister of State for Investments Khaalis Rolle (centre) and Minister of State for Financial Services Ryan Pinder.

The cost of doing business in the Bahamas would be greatly reduced by the adoption of environmentally progressive national policies, a Chamber of Commerce director says.

Reporting to the chamber’s national conclave, environmental attorney Romi Ferreira cited complaints about the high electricity costs, which he said, are the result of poor planning, a lack of maintenance and the use of expensive, pollutant-heavy fuel by the Bahamas Electricity Corporation (BEC).

“The price of energy is too high, and its impeding business,” said Ferreira, who serves as the Chamber’s director of energy and environment. “A sustainable action plan is needed to transform the electricity sector, and that would mean a great difference in the bottom line of every single business.”

He noted that BEC produces no energy from renewable resources – not even on remote islands like Acklins, Crooked Island and Long Cay, where there is ample sun and wind.

Ferreira, who is also a director of the fast-growing environmental movement Save The Bays, said every forward-thinking businessperson in the Bahamas should be concerned about protecting the environment, particularly in light of the threat posed to economically vital natural resources by the rise of unregulated development.

“We are not opposed to development,” he told the conference. “What we really want is sustainable development, so that your children, your grandchildren will have the same opportunities to prosper to that you had.

“Every single island in this country has an example of a failed development. Once the environment has been impacted in this way, you cannot get it back to how it was. It is prudent for us to manage our resources because our number one asset is coast. That is the why developments come here – access to coast.”

Ferreira said developers, both local and foreign, would benefit from the enactment of a single, overarching Environmental Protection Act as advocated by Save The Bays.

“As it stands, as an investor, you have a literal minefield of legislation to wade through to figure out what you have to comply with.

“We need regulations that are specific for industry and that encourage industry, and encourage it to be sustainable over time,” he said.

In addition to an Environmental Protection Act, Save The Bays is calling for a Freedom of Information Act to facilitate citizen access to government information, which Mr Ferreira said is key to ensuring all laws and regulations are properly enforced.

Since its formation a year ago, the organisation has taken the Bahamas by storm, becoming the fastest growing environmental group in the country’s history with 500 registered members, 14,000 Facebook friends and nearly 6,000 signatures on its petition for legislative reforms.

Attorney: unregulated development is a social justice issue Ferreira calls on students to join the fight to preserve the Bahamas for their own grandchildren

THE GOOD FIGHT – Environmental attorney Romi Ferreira tells C.V. Bethel students that the fight to preserve the country’s natural heritage is also a struggle to protect the rights of every Bahamian. (Photo by Derek Smith Jr. for DPA)

THE GOOD FIGHT – Environmental attorney Romi Ferreira tells C.V. Bethel students that the fight to preserve the country’s natural heritage is also a struggle to protect the rights of every Bahamian. (Photo by Derek Smith Jr. for DPA)

The fight to protect the environment from the scourge of unregulated development is ultimately a struggle to defend the rights of each and every Bahamian, a top environmental attorney told C.V. Bethel students.

Romi Ferreira told members of the school’s Young Marine Explorers club that while the lack of environmental protection laws is an obvious cause for concern ecologically speaking, it is also a question of social justice.
“We are being pushed inland,” he said. “Bahamians are being denied access to their own shoreline.

“Once the coast is developed, you can’t go there unless you can pay. The average Bahamian can’t afford the two or three million it costs to live on the water.”

Ferreira, a director of the fast-growing advocacy group Save The Bays, said this phenomenon is being driven by unregulated development.

“It is cheaper and easier to build resorts and gated communities without an Environmental Protection Act, without a Freedom of Information Act allowing us to find out what is being done in secret,” he said.

“But only certain people will be able to afford to enjoy the results. Meanwhile, at some point, our ecosystems will be destroyed beyond their capacity to regenerate.

“This is what Save The Bays is really trying to prevent. You ought to be able to enjoy your country’s natural beauty when you are old.

“You deserve the chance to show it to your grandchildren. You are the future – this is your fight,” he told the students.

Save The Bays is currently celebrating its first anniversary and the fact that in so short a time, it has managed to attract more than 500 full members and nearly 14,000 followers on Facebook.

A Save The Bays petition calling for a Freedom of Information Act, an Environmental Protection Act and an end to unregulated development has garnered nearly 6,000 signatures. It is available at www.savethebays.bs.

The group’s new radio talk show – ‘Voice of the Bays: The Environment Speaks’ – airs every Monday at 5pm on Love 97 FM.

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