Many persons know me as a youth advocate through my work as national director of the Governor General’s Youth Award. Post-retirement, I have also come to identify as an environmentalist.
Sir Lynden O Pindling once said: “If Bahamians are not prepared to stand up and defend their own Bahamas, then you don’t deserve to have it.” I find this quote applicable to our slow response and lack of action when it comes to large-scale, foreign development.
Over the past 30 years, I have shepherded thousands of young people throughout the length and breadth of our beautiful Bahamas. I’ve been blessed with the opportunity to hike, run, camp, swim and just be a domestic tourist on almost all of our islands.
During that time, I have witnessed the destruction of our coastlines, mangroves, pine forests, beaches, ponds and other areas critical to maintaining the health of our environment.
I can no longer remain silent. Bahamians and residents, we must fight for greater environmental protection.
Developers arrive on our beautiful shores with the promise of “jobs, jobs and more jobs” and we fall silent. It seems like we are rarely consulted before development begins. The public receives very little information about a proposed club or resort’s impact to wetlands, coastlines and beach access until after approval is granted. By then, it’s too late.
In the case of the Royal Caribbean Beach Club project on Paradise Island and any other massive projects in the pipeline, we still have time.
RCI has left a number of questions unanswered. For this project and others like it, we must have real oversight and greater public input. I commend Protect Our Island Fund (POIF), Save the Bays and other similar organizations for continuing to fight for our environmental rights. More of us must join them and support POIF’s online petition.
How are we comfortable loaning out our Crown land for pennies on the dollar for the next 150 years?
We must call on all governments to stop fast-tracking major development. Stop leasing Crown land willy-nilly. Stop aiding pollution, coastal erosion and mangroves destruction. Stop selling off our beaches and coastlines.
Hiking on many of the Family Islands, I saw oil spills that impacted wetlands, coastal erosion not only by hurricanes but by building in or close to seabeds, as was the case on one island where a resort and golf course were supposed to be constructed. I saw major tracks removed from the seabed, trees destroyed and some historical artifacts ruined. Access to the beach? Denied. To date, no jobs were created. The development has yet to be completed. Equipment was left to rust in the sun and nothing more has been said or done. The property is now an overgrown wasteland.
On another island, developers began marking out their territory long before the public saw any plans or environmental impact assessments. Yet, another done deal.
We cannot continue to make the same mistakes over and over again. We are losing too many of our shorelines to mega resorts and private homeowners. If this trend continues, pollution, followed by poor air quality, will surely affect us for generations to come.
The environment of all our islands must be protected. We must call on all governments to stop fast-tracking major development. Stop leasing Crown land willy-nilly. Stop aiding pollution, coastal erosion and mangroves destruction. Stop selling off our beaches and coastlines.
Protecting and caring for our environment is a battle we must all join. We must advocate for stronger environmental laws. We must demand public access to all environmental impact assessments for major foreign developments before they are approved, and we must stop selling off our coastlines.
We must hold all governments to account so that they can hold developers accountable, and we, as citizens, must ensure that the public has a say when new, multimillion-dollar projects are proposed.
Yes, we must fight for all things in this country. If we fail to fight, our failure could prove to be fatal.
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