Against best advice, we continue

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At the risk of wearing out our welcome on the topic of Yida and the environment, we shall return to the subject because it is just so darn important. 
As you would have heard in the news, Prime Minister Gaston Browne has informed the nation that the government will apply its legal authority to override prohibitions in the laws protecting the environmentally sensitive Yida development site to make way for beach creation among other activities.  A bit shocking because that decision came only about six weeks after the Minister of Information, Melford Nicholas, declared that the administration was not considering giving such overrides. Is this another case of the minister being mis-informed or mis-informing the public?
The new, flip-flop stance of the government was enunciated by the Prime Minister when he said, “We have since agreed to a limited amount [of mangroves] to allow for the creation of maybe a couple of beaches. On that basis I’m told that they are moving forward.”
Wait a minute! On what basis? That Yida will not wantonly destroy mangroves … just enough for “maybe a couple of beaches”? And what about that “maybe”? Is that to indicate that there may be more than “a couple of beaches”? Does anyone know the size of these beaches? More to the point, if we do not know the exact plan how can we assess the environmental impact of ripping out sensitive mangroves in the North East Marine Management Area (NEMMA)?
Where is the updated Strategic Environmental Impact Assessment (SEIA) that has been promised? Are we to believe that the developers were able to complete a new study since the last one was so soundly criticised and rejected? It took them years to produce that one, how were they able to create a new one in the short time since the last one was rejected? 
We are told that Yida submitted a “modified” plan that influenced the government’s decision to override laws that safeguard our NEMMA environment and restrict development in the areas earmarked for the multi-million dollar Yida project. Is this how we make such important decisions? On a modified plan from a developer that has shown a wanton disregard for our laws and regulations and has suffered multiple stop orders because of their actions?
By now, you have probably figured out that we are passionate about this topic. Our criticisms and protestations have nothing to do with being anti-Yida or anti-development. It has everything to do with what is right for our bit of paradise in the long-term. 
Let’s look at this objectively. Yida promised an environmentally friendly development. The result has been the multiple stop orders from the Development Control Authority (DCA) because of the unsupervised and unauthorised destruction to the environment.  Heck, the mere fact that the government has to override environment laws is clear evidence that the project was not intended to be and is not environmentally friendly. And let us immediately dispense of the notion that golf courses are environmentally friendly.
Yida promised to do a comprehensive environmental impact assessment yet they submitted a report that the Department of the Environment (DoE) rubbished for the relying on outdated data. That alone demonstrates the level of importance that Yida places on the environment. They couldn’t even spend a few dollars and a bit of time to do a proper assessment. We should also note that the DoE has highlighted that that planned activities, such as dredging and beach creation, would have disastrous effects on the NEMMA. They are the people who know what they are talking about, yet we seemingly ignore them.
Yida also promised to be sensitive to our culture and history, yet the developer blazed ahead with the clearing of the lands completely unsupervised and may have damaged or destroyed sensitive archeological sites. How do they now claim that they come to the table with clean hands and will be sensitive in the areas where they have already breached?
Now the prime minister is telling us all that we should not worry because Yida’s activity would be allowed “in collaboration with the ministry of environment”. That is no comfort whatsoever. All of their actions so far were to be done in consultation with the authorities or under their supervision and look how that turned out.
Telling us that the ministry “will continue to play a role and to advise us on how we can have some limited clearance of the mangroves without impacting on the ecosystem in a profound way” is also no comfort. Without an environmental impact study, what does that even mean? 
When it comes to environmental knowledge, we admit that we are amateurs, at best, so we will let environmentalist Dr Brian Cooper pronounce on the project and the recent decisions. He said, “I view this attempt to override the advice of the Department of Environment as a very serious step for the government to take. Beaches that aren’t there are not there for a reason because they are not likely to survive there.” He called the plan a “big mistake” and declared it was “just a further example of the fact that plans for [the site] are at variance with the plans for those islands”.
And really, do we need to go further than our own experts in the DoE who concluded in the review of Yida’s SEIA that “the capacity of both the developers and the DoE to make a comprehensive assessment of the hazards and implications of the development in the area” had been “hindered” as the SEIA was wholly inadequate”.
Yet we continue. How does that old saying go? Oh yeah! “Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me”?

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