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Posted: Thursday 18 February, 2016 at 10:28 AM

Matthew 6 v. 34

James Milnes Gaskell

    Fifteen years ago Kenneth Williams, owner editor of the Observer, asked me if I would like to write for his newspaper.  Ever since then I have made my diverse, irregular, and I trust occasionally useful, contributions to his and other media outlets.  I am grateful to him and to those of SKN Vibes who have almost always published whatever I have sent in.  I have always been concerned for the present and future welfare of Nevis.  This has two linked components, the people and the environment.

     

    Matthew, Chapter 6, verse 34 reads: “Be not therefore anxious for the morrow:  for the morrow will be anxious for itself.  Sufficient, unto the day, is the evil thereof.”

    This may be guidance towards living a good Christian life, but it is no precept for dealing with environmental matters, for which is required proper forward planning based upon the scientific experience, forecasts and knowledge of appropriate experts. 

    Politicians, usually taking a short view, call for development, but this always changes the environment, rarely beneficially.  No one here can think of any economic activity to replace tourism, and the construction and other benefits it brings. That is why it is critical to the welfare of our children and grandchildren, that our countryside, our beaches and our marine life and environment are kept in first class condition.  Apart from being undesirable in many ways, destruction and degradation of the environment is, perhaps unexpectedly to some, very expensive.  If Four Seasons had been well advised and built the breakwater at the beginning, instead of years later after colossal wave damage, it is probable that the total three years’ closure would have been much less, with corresponding advantage to the people of Nevis.

    In March 2000 I wrote about the then intended development at Pinney’s and the need for an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA).  I quote from that article “…Minister Guishard says that the massive Pinney’s Resort Development Project will not be implemented by the American Financiers who signed an agreement with the Administration over a year ago, and that the NIA is now dealing with another group of financiers… The agreement with the original financiers was kept secret, no EIA was made and placed in the public domain and so no one is in a position to assess the pros and cons.  No one can know what conditions to impose… Here it appears that decisions are made following no more than a developer’s outline application, and then perhaps to avoid criticism all details are kept secret.”

    We have come some way since then, in that an EIA and its report is now claimed to be a necessary step towards any larger development.  However I get the impression that if the politicians have decided that they want a particular scheme, then whatever an EIA may say, nothing shall stand in the way of that development.  This means that the EIA is simply treated as a formal procedure which does not need to be critiqued before permission is granted.  If this is the case then decisions may be made without proper consideration of the harm to the environment and the recommended ways of limiting or eliminating that damage.

    What is the situation today?

    The beachfront and land available for development at Pinneys Estate remains as bush.  A number of condominiums have been permitted and built in the Cotton Ground area of Pinneys Beach.  They are probably set back a sufficient distance from high water mark to comply with the law, but the sea is ignorant of the law and may have other ideas.

    Over in St. James’ Planning Permission was given for the HTRIP Candy Resort Villa Development and is proceeding. Mrs. Anne Bass and the Nevis Historical and Conservation Society are unhappy about this Citizenship by Investment programme development, of a number of three storey blocks concentrated into a small, four acre site between the Island Road and the sea.  In this they are not alone.  The Prime Minister has expressed concern about the various apartment blocks built in inappropriate places, which when built, may not be used or fully used and form a blight upon the landscape.

    Mrs. Bass may be known to many as the owner of Tower Hill Estate, and for being better funded than the rest of us.  It may not be as well appreciated that she is a considerable Nevis philanthropist, with a strong desire to preserve our environment and to provide targeted scholarships.  Indeed, making use of experts, she proposed a coral reef restoration scheme at Long Haul Bay.  This was, in late 2014 and early 2015, viewed with enthusiasm by Nevis politicians, Brantley and Jeffers and PS Eric Evelyn:

    ‘This represents significant hope for our lovely island.  We must pursue the planned project to be a part of the effort to restore damaged coral reefs.’  AND
    ‘I am excited about the project and look forward to my Ministry collaborating with you’. AND
    ‘The reefs are critical to our island life, our fish stock, our diving, our tourism product, our eco system’.

    And then, perhaps regardless of these sentiments came the HTRIP Candy Villa development.  Mrs. Bass instead of being able to pursue a positive reef restoration project, finds that a development has been allowed in the same area, which may cause further damage to those reefs.  Legal action is now taking place to decide what should be done. 

    Everyone should understand that coral reefs form a natural barrier against the sea and a nursery for fish.  That an effective reef has to be comprised of live healthy coral.  That such a reef can only remain live in clear unpolluted sea water.  That water run offs from the land, may bear silt, pesticide and toxic residues, or algae forming nutrients, all of which kill coral.  Dead coral breaks up.  Damaged or absent reefs allow the sea to penetrate and waves to erode our land.  An expert ecologist, a Doctor of Science in Environmental Health from Harvard will testify on behalf of Mrs. Bass about the developers’ EIA.  This testimony will include: ‘The original EIA prepared for the Candy development itself states that “… The natural environment (of the Site) is characterized by terrestrial and marine conditions…. (and) this EIA will consider only the terrestrial aspects of the project site as the marine components will be investigated in a subsequent environmental study”.  [However]  A subsequent EIA of the marine components has not been done, yet construction activities have begun…  The Project Master Plan 21st July 2014, was significantly revised in the plans approved by the Nevis Planning Department on April 7th 2015.  To my understanding no updated or amended EIA was done for the revised project…  The Waste Water Report in the EIA Report for the 2014 Master Plan provided insufficient details to evaluate these concerns (density of housing, closeness to coast, lack of consideration of ground water impacts and flow) and is not relevant to the current development plans… the EIA does not address potential impacts to the coastal aquifer or near shore waters from surface drainage…  no drainage report or plan was provided for the approved project plan’.

    So there you have it.  No doubt the Developers will tell the Court that they have gone some distance into the project and they should not be asked to stop now, and Mrs. Bass will say that in the absence of a promised marine EIA and a change in the plans, a development which should not have been allowed in the absence of this assessment should be stopped and sorted out.

    Whatever happens at Court, it is clear that any concentrated development concreting over much land gives rise to a greater and faster waste water run off.  Some of this will go into the Ghaut on the Northern boundary and will first be caught in a little pond of stagnant water near the shoreline, and may thus form a breeding ground for the Zika virus carrying mosquito.

    It is also clear that Matthew 6. V. 34 offers no protection to our valuable coral reefs, and it is sad that for their struggling welfare they have to look to legal action brought by a public spirited citizen against elements of our Government and a developer whose identity is uncertain.
     

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