“The number one priority for the PLP is that the beaches and waters given to us by God remain pristine.” P.M. Perry G. Christie
As the Bahamian government continues to promote business, create new jobs and develop the economy, the need for an independent regulatory body to protect our environment becomes even more critical.
Save The Bays joins a growing number of environmental groups and concerned citizens advocating for the immediate passage of an Environmental Protection Act for The Bahamas. The BEST Commission has been established for years but it is not a statutory body and needs to be institutionally created by legislation to make it effective.
For more than two decades, both the PLP administration and former FNM administration promised to adopt and implement policies to protect and enhance our environment. Yet the fact remains – despite repeated attempts by numerous environmental groups and citizens to advocate for one – The Bahamas does not have an Environmental Protection Act in place to ensure proper oversight and regulation of Bahamian land and marine resources, or that all interested parties are properly consulted in matters that could impact the environment.
Development and industry are essential for jobs and our economy, but we have to ensure that the growth is sustainable and environmentally sensible. Increased fishing, tourism, transport, coastal development and other human activities threaten to degrade our environment, doom our tourism industry, and impact the livelihoods of millions of people across The Bahamas and beyond. This is especially true on New Providence Island where space is limited and industrial and urban growth is booming.
The impacts to our environment reach far beyond our borders. As former Minister of the Environment, Dr. Earl Deveaux told the Bahama Journal in 2007, “The waters surrounding The Bahamas and its creeks and wetlands act as the primary marine basin for fish stocks, nurseries, feeding grounds and spawning aggregations stretching throughout the region and as far away as Newfoundland in the north.”
It’s also critical that stakeholders and interested parties who may be affected by industrial and/or other developments have an opportunity to be properly consulted. This has been repeatedly affirmed by all levels of our judicial system from the Bahamian Supreme Court and Court of Appeal to Privy Councils in the Guana Cay and Abaco Wilson City Power Plant litigation.
The Planning and Subdivision Act was a great step in providing an opportunity for stakeholders to be consulted and participate in developments before they occur, and the requirement for environmental impact assessments in that legislation is to be commended.
However, the lack of a corresponding Environmental Protection Act and statutory process for environmental reviews creates confusion and leads to continued environmental degradation and violation of the Bahamian people’s trust.