UP THE CREEK: Environmentalist says the backlog of environmental approvals remains a mystery

UP THE CREEK: Environmentalist says the backlog of environmental approvals remains a mystery

NASSAU, BAHAMAS — Renowned environmentalist Joe Darville of Waterkeepers Bahamas and Save The Bays said yesterday that it remains a mystery why the Ministry of Agriculture and Marine Resources has not resolved the significant backlog of applications for approval for environmental projects, including saving the mangroves of The Bahamas.

Waterkeepers Bahamas has collected close to 3,000 mangrove propagules for replanting.

According to Darville, the propagules were collected from areas where they were dying, repotted and revived.

Joseph Darville, the chairman of the non-profit organization Save The Bays.

“And yet we cannot get the permit to proceed with the massive collection — getting all of the young people involved — so that we can restore some of the mangroves that were devastated in Dorian in East Grand Bahama and in Abaco,” Darville told Eyewitness News.

Darville said environmentalists in The Bahamas have been treated like “we’re some bastard children or some outside entity trying to steal something [when] we’re are trying to restore.”

He continued: “That is the mystery. No one seems to know why this is happening.

“In our position with the restoration of the mangroves, we have applied for and paid for the permit since last October and we’re still waiting. They sent documents back and said we need to put in more information

“And the only complaint they had at one point was that they were wondering whether or not we were taking the young mangrove propagules from challenged areas.

“We are not stupid,” Darville said.

“We are environmentalists. We know exactly what every mangrove needs and how they should be protected.

Minister for the Environment and Natural Resources Vaughn Miller

“And what we’re doing is we’re helping the mother trees by collecting her babies from the tree or as they drop under the tree and rather than sitting there dying, we collect them, we pot them and then we get them ready to transplant where the mangroves have been destroyed.

“And that was the only thing and we cleared that up. I cleared that up directly myself with the minister of the environment.”

Last week, Minister of Agriculture and Marine Resources Vaughn Miller attributed the backlog of environmental applications for approval at the Department of Environmental Planning to a human resources shortage.

He said at least 10 to 15 employees are needed for that department and encouraged Bahamians in the field to apply.

“We’re aware of it, regrettably it is the way it is,” Miller told Eyewitness News.

“But we are working feverishly with the Attorney General’s Office in particular because we made some amendments and I am really pushing them, let’s get this out to; this needs to happen to expedite it.

“So, that’s where it’s at. It is unfortunate that it is where it is, very unfortunate, but we are doing our best to really expedite it and to make certain.

“But of course, as you would understand, legally we want to make sure ‘Ts’ are crossed and ‘I’s are dotted.”

Asked for a timeline to address the backlog, the minister said: “For me, today is already too late. It’s urgent. We are treating it with a sense of urgency, and so I am on them.”

He said the issue is critical and the government will do “everything we can”.

Miller advised that he did not “understand it to the fullest extent” the cause of the delay, but he said he believes the appropriate agencies have erred on the side of caution to ensure “that everything is done and done right”.

Darville said there must be a sense of urgency, particularly as the government explores carbon credits, which he called “putting the cart before the horse”.

About Royston Jones Jr.

Royston Jones Jr. is a senior digital reporter and occasional TV news anchor at Eyewitness News. Since joining Eyewitness News as a digital reporter in 2018, he has done both digital and broadcast reporting, notably providing the electoral analysis for Eyewitness News’ inaugural election night coverage, “Decision Now 2021”.