By Machela Osagboro
“Pig in a bag” is what Barbudans have termed the controversial Peace Love and Happiness (PLH) Development. Several claimed they would not have voted for the project in 2016 if they had been presented with the complete picture detailing its environmental and social impact.
A meeting held at Holy Trinity School on Monday to engage the villagers in a discourse about the scheme was attended by environmentalist Dr Adele Blair, Sir McChesney George Secondary School Principal John Mussington, and Chief Environmental Officer Diann Black-Layne.
Mussington said there seemed to have been a lot of public misinformation from the inception of the project. He said an initial meeting held in 2016 “had nothing to do with the present master plan that we are discussing”.
And he asserted that Barbudans had walked out of a second village meeting held to discuss the project because, “they were being asked to buy a pig in a bag”.
Mussington claimed that no one in Barbuda had ever heard of the plan that approved the dredging of Codrington Lagoon and the building of a marina.
Barbuda’s MP Trevor Walker said, “A project was presented to us, there was nothing about any golf course, any marina. There was nothing about a project in any detail; all they came to ask for was some land in terms of developing a hotel.”
Black-Layne posed the question of how many people voted for the development and how many knew what the project entailed. Only a few people expressed knowledge of the level of change that would be made to the landscape and even less said that they voted for the project to be approved in 2016.
But Black-Layne appeared to blame Barbudans, saying 86 people had approved a master plan to dredge the lagoon, remove mangroves from Low Bay and place buildings there.
She added that she was disappointed when the Department of Environment (DOE) received letters from the Barbuda Council approving the development as it meant that the Palmetto area would be severely altered. Irrespective of her own personal feelings she said she sent the approval to the developers and when she received the master plan, the DOE made recommendations to adjust and scale back the development.
Mussington claimed that this amended master plan was not received by the Barbuda Council and Monday’s meeting was meant to address these changes and make sure that all parties involved understood the revisions.
Dr Blair also raised several concerns, including an “extensive area of mangrove destruction”.
She said the water table had been excavated to accommodate a new golf turf.
“I want to know who is monitoring this, I haven’t seen anything to suggest an alarm about this,” she said.
She further questioned why Palmetto Point had been designated a RAMSAR site and a national park.
“Here we have a wonderful site and you are doing this sort of work in there; the same things that you say you are going to preserve are the same things that are being destroyed,” she said.
A Ramsar site is a wetland area of international importance under the Ramsar Convention, an intergovernmental environmental treaty which came into force in 1975.