Don’t let Chinese Developers break laws conserving our Marine Protected Areas

Gaston Browne: Don’t let Chinese Developers break laws conserving our Marine Protected Areas

PETITIONING GASTON BROWNE, PRIME MINISTER OF ANTIGUA AND BARBUDA

READ and SIGN the PETITION HERE

13th May 2015 – news release for immediate publication

INTERNATIONAL ENVIRONMENTAL CHARITY BACKS GUIANA ISLAND PROTEST

Over 800 signatures in first 24 hours of petition against environmental law-breaking in Antigua

An international environmental organisation has given its backing to a growing protest in Antigua against a massive development on its environmentally protected North shore.

The announcement came on the same day as the Antigua Conversation Society launched a petition which gained more than 800 signatures in the first 24 hours.

The Mangrove Action Project, which is a global network focusing on viable, long term solutions to halt and prevent mangrove destruction, says that it is deeply concerned by the plans published by Chinese development corporation YIDA.

YIDA has purchased the 1600 acres of land, including mangrove-rich Guiana Island, with the intention of developing the US$1billion Singulari resort. The resort will feature hundreds of villas, several marinas, luxury hotels, a casino, school and two golf courses.

The area is in the 3,100 hectare North East Marine Management Area (NEMMA). In order to be carried out legally the project needs an Environmental Impact Assessment being submitted under the Physical Planning Act 2003. There is also a requirement for permission to be sought from the Fisheries Division under the Fisheries Act 2006 for any pruning or removal of mangroves, which must improve the environment.

Mangrove Action Project Chairman of the Board Roger de Freitas said: “The next generation of Antiguans will be very grateful that these laws were enforced. Mangroves are the fish nurseries for the Caribbean. It is difficult, although not impossible, to restore them. In Mexico the Chinese have just been ordered to restore a huge area of mangroves they destroyed in order to build an industrial centre near Cancun. It would be a great shame if Antigua became yet another case in a sequence of Caribbean mangrove destruction.”

Species which make their homes in the NEMMA include many of the 182 species of Antiguan and Barbudan birds such as the endangered West Indian Whistling Duck, the Lesser Antillean Flycatcher and Bullfinch, egrets, and Carib doves. There are also Hawksbill turtles which nest on the beaches, snapper and many other fish, lobsters, coral, sponges, conch, and seagrass as well as the ecologically vital mangroves. In 2005, the NEMMA was declared a marine protected area under the Fisheries (Marine Reserve Area) Notice No 36.

Alarm about the development is spreading in Antigua, with the Antigua Conservation Society launching an online petition yesterday (12th May) asking Prime Minister Gaston Browne not to let Chinese developers break the laws which conserve Antigua’s marine protected areas. The petition gathered a massive total of more than 800 signatures in the first 24 hours. The group says it believes while the majority of Antiguans support economic growth, jobs and development in the country, they don’t want it at the expense of the island’s precious environment.

Director of Adventure Antigua Eco Tours and founder of the Antigua Conservation Society, Eli Fuller, said: “The Siboney were the first humans settling here in Antigua and Barbuda. They lived in the shadows of our coastal vegetation some 4000 years ago and were sustained by the ecosystems that were rooted there among the mangroves. Tourism has been in these islands only since the 1950s, and already we have removed much of the same vegetation that sustained life here until its arrival. Only time will tell how long tourism will continue to be an integral part of our lives here in Antigua and Barbuda. It’s a very fickle industry to rely upon with so many threats from so many angles that could make tourism a distant memory of the past…… just like the Siboney. What will happen when tourism is no longer able to provide food for our nation? It is then that we will need to rely more heavily than ever before on the natural resources and of course this will be impossible if they continue to destroy them. It’s time for the words sustainable development to become more than words.”

Amongst those protesting the development is Antiguan-born Ziffy Tyrrell who said: “People are really alarmed at these plans and the bullying tone of some of the speeches made in regard to them, calling those of us concerned about the environment a ‘minority’. There has been no consultation with local people and fishermen in Parham, and no wider information about the nature of the plans given to Antiguans. Long term, we are worried about the impact on our fragile island, particularly the fishing culture which is already struggling due to the effects of climate change and the decline of our reefs.”

Antiguan environmental campaigner Martin Dudley said: “Successive Antiguan Governments have sadly failed to stop our island heading for environmental catastrophe. Our landfill site is overflowing, there is no recycling system in place in Antigua, our water and electricity supplies are unreliable and already at full stretch, and vast swathes of mangroves have already been decimated by development.

“This latest project could result in the collapse of the north sound ecosystem which is now critical to Antigua’s reefs and fisheries due to the historical loss of other mangroves. We’ve had enough of our concerns being ignored, and want to work with the Government and YIDA to ensure any future development is within the law and protects our ecosystem. The new Zoning plan designates this area for environmental protection”, this is not new news!”

READ and SIGN the PETITION HERE

Contact details:

Antigua Conservation Society – Eli Fuller 1 268 725 7263 [email protected]

Ziffy Tyrrell (+1268) 721-3051 [email protected]

Martin Dudley 1 268 722 3564 [email protected]