NASSAU, BAHAMAS – The compendium of Environmental Bills passed in Parliament last week are “about 50 years late” but “better later the never”, according to a leading environmentalist.
However, Joe Darville, chairman of Save the Bays and Waterkeepers Bahamas, said enforcement will be the real test.
He lauded Environment and Housing Minister Romauld Ferreira for bringing the bills to Parliament.
“I want to congratulate the minister and the government for what they have done with regards to the environmental bills,” Darville said.
“They are critically needed right now. They are about 50 years too late but better late than never and so I salute the minister for that.”
The bills included the Ministry Of Environment Bill, 2019; The Environmental Planning And Protection Bill, 2019; the Environmental Protection (Control of Plastic Pollution) Bill, 2019; The Bahamas National Trust Bill, 2019; The Bahamas Protected Areas Fund Bill, 2019 and the Tariff Amendment Bill 2019.
According to Ferriera, the Environmental Planning and Protection Bill, 2019 will establish an integrated environmental management system and provide a legal framework for the protection and conservation on the environment.
The bill addresses numerous infractions, including spills of oil and hazardous materials into the environment.
Accompanying the legislation is a series of fines and penalties that can be levied on environmental offenders, proportionate to the environmental infraction.
According to Ferreira the fines range from $5,000 for individuals on summary charges to $30 million or jail time for indictable charges, or “up to three times the assessed value of the damage caused, whichever is greater, or a term of imprisonment not exceeding 10 years or both.”
Yesterday, Darville said: “In some cases it may have to go beyond the $30 million.
“Equinor should be $100 million for the damage done to the environment. This is just for the damage to the environment and not for the cleanup. That has to be undertaken by whoever polluted the environment in conjunction with the powers that be.
Darville continued: “We should not leave an oil spill up to the company alone clean it up. They should pay for the clean up but it should be under the direction of the government. When you look at the Equinor situation, Is no one from the government on site monitoring who is doing what. Then you have issues in north Bimini and south Cat Cay.”
He added: “We have a precious environment threatened by climate change and sea level rise. Our legislation must speak to where and how development takes place. We have to get serious about the environment.
“We applaud the government on the legislation. It must take effect immediately and enforcement is going to be the real test.”