Environmentalists request update on Disney’s project at Lighthouse Point

Environmentalists request update on Disney’s project at Lighthouse Point
Lighthouse Point, Eleuthera. (FILE PHOTO)

NASSAU, BAHAMAS — Last Chance for Lighthouse Point campaign partners are requesting an update from the government and the Walt Disney Company on the status of Disney’s proposed cruise ship port at Lighthouse Point, Eleuthera.

Environmentalists representing the campaign, in a recent statement, claimed “there is mounting uncertainty about if and when the project will proceed, particularly in light of the recent retirement of Joe Rohde, Disney’s chief designer for the project”.

“Also, Disney’s environmental impact assessment (EIA) for the project was submitted to the ministry for review more than eight months ago, but there is no publicly available information yet as to when it will be released for review and public consultation,” the statement noted.

At last mention of the project from the government, in September, Director of the Department of Environmental Planning and Protection Rochelle Newbold told the media the EIA for the multimillion-dollar Lighthouse Point cruise port development was expected to be released to the public “in a matter of weeks”.

The recent letter from the Last Chance for Lighthouse Point campaign stated: “Meanwhile, the people of Eleuthera are suffering from high unemployment and food insecurity. They need to know whether this project is still even feasible in light of the new realities and challenges the world is facing.

“The people of the Bahamas need to know whether Disney is serious about helping the Bahamas to build back better by being transparent and committed to meaningful public engagement.”

Several noted local environmentalists also added their voices, expressing concern over the project and calling for more engagement.

Sam Duncombe, reEarth executive director, said: “Disney needs to decide if they are going to be a part of the solution. While Disney purports to respect the Bahamian environment, they have not responded to efforts by the Bahamian environmental community to engage with their EIA.

“The world is watching Lighthouse Point. Our campaign now has more than 433,000 supporters — more than the total population of The Bahamas. Disney needs to re-imagine a positive and sustainable project at Lighthouse Point.”

The Bahamas Reef Environment Educational Foundation (BREEF) Executive Director Casuarina Mckinney-Lambert also said: “The Bahamas is struggling to recover from the devastation caused by last year’s Hurricane Dorian and now from the pandemic. We need sustainable, equitable and long-term investments that help to support and rebuild the economy of Eleuthera and The Bahamas in a way that also takes into consideration the new world in which we live.

“Bahamians deserve answers from Disney and the government about Lighthouse Point.”

Save The Bays Executive Director Joseph Darville added: “Disney has not provided public updates on the project, and our colleagues on Eleuthera have not observed any further activity at the site since last March. We have been very disappointed in Disney and the government. They need to start to be transparent and inclusive in its deliberations about this project which now seems more uncertain than ever.”

Waterkeeper Bahamas Executive Director Rashema Ingraham said: “Disney needs to take its responsibilities to the people of The Bahamas seriously, including being transparent about its plans for Lighthouse Point. It is not too late for Disney to change course and work with the local communities and environmentalists to develop a sustainable alternative for Lighthouse Point.”

Marc Yaggi, executive director, Waterkeeper Alliance, added: “We expect better from Disney, which is a major multinational corporation and perhaps the world’s leading communicator on wildlife and nature. The story so far of Disney Cruise Line at Lighthouse Point is at odds with the company’s proclaimed commitment to environmental protection.”

Disney, for its part, previously insisted that its Lighthouse Point development will be environmentally friendly and bring sustainable economic opportunity in South Eleuthera.

In February, Disney Cruise Line entered into an agreement with the Access Accelerator Small Business Development Centre and the Eleuthera Chamber of Commerce to prepare startups and small businesses for participation in development projects underway in Central and South Eleuthera, including the Lighthouse Point project.