“The tiny western end of Paradise Island simply cannot become a mega-tourism destination”
NASSAU, BAHAMAS — Environmentalist group Save the Bays (STB) yesterday urged Prime Minister Philip Brave Davis to “move swiftly” in axing an agreement leasing Crown land on Paradise Island to Royal Caribbean.
The Crown land in question is some seven acres on Paradise Island that the former government had reportedly granted to Bahamian developer Toby Smith, but that they failed to give effect to the lease for before accepting a deal from Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines (RCCL) for the same area.
In June, Smith claimed that then Opposition Leader Davis said if elected, he would cancel the RCCL agreement as “Crown land should be for Bahamians”.
Now that Davis is prime minister, STB Chairman Joe Darville fully expects him to follow through with that promise.
In a statement, Darville said: “Leading up to the election, Mr Davis and his colleagues laid firm emphasis on environmental conservation, both in their manifesto and on the campaign trail.
“In due course, we hope to see these commitments become reality in the form of policy and legislation.
“One such commitment was Mr Davis’ firm pledge to terminate any agreement that would result in Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines leasing Crown land on Paradise Island. STB wholeheartedly supports the prime minister on this matter and we fully trust that he will keep his word.”
RCCL is investing $110 million in the development of its Royal Beach Club destination on Paradise Island, which is expected to generate an additional $26 million in visitor spend; as compared to Smith’s proposal of a $2 million restoration of Paradise Island’s lighthouse as well as the development of a “beach break” destination that he says would keep money circulating within the economy.
Darville, in his statement, rejected RCCL’s plans, asserting the “proposed project in its current form would threaten serious irreparable harm to the surrounding environment on a number of levels”.
“Shattering this historic, pristine oasis with huge construction works, massive crowds and the enormous volumes of solid waste and water pollution these will generate is simply unthinkable,” he said.
“The threat of permanent harm to the underground water table, the nearby thriving reef and harbor-facing waterfront properties on New Providence is far too great.
“In our view, RCCL’s plans for environmental management are nowhere near sufficient given the level of risk such a project represents.
“Insufficient or improper management just a few miles from the largest population center in The Bahamas could create a serious pollution issue and potentially even a health crisis.
“The tiny western end of Paradise Island simply cannot become a mega-tourism destination. Any further development of the area must be restricted to low-impact, small footprint boutique projects that showcase rather than destroy our country’s unique ecological heritage.”
Darville added: “We thank Prime Minister Davis for recognizing the danger posed by this project, and urge him to move swiftly to make good on his promise.”
Smith has likewise recently expressed confidence that the new Davis-led administration will resolve the matter, even as he remains embroiled in a court battle with the previous government over it.