The Director for the Department of Environment (DoE) Diann Black-Layne said that she is frustrated that developers for the YIDA project did not give the Department two weeks’ notice before beginning construction.
Several citizens and environmentalists expressed concern after photos emerged online of clearing of mangroves in the North East Marine Managed Area (NEMMA), a protected area within which the Chinese group purchased land to construct a resort.
On OBSERVER AM yesterday, the DoE director expressed frustration that while most developers follow the procedures established by the department, some developers, like YIDA International, did not give her team ample time to prepare.
“In the matter of YIDA, they did not violate any legislation, but they did breach the procedure that was set out for them in the agreement with the department. We have more than one project that we are monitoring and where other developers contact us when they start different phases, so we cannot send our team whenever YIDA decides to notify us, which constantly happens with some developers,” she said.
“When other developers [who follow the law and the procedures] want to start construction and we are not there, it is not fair for them and that it was makes it frustrating.”
She also defended any accusation that the department had dropped the ball on the matter.
“I am the Director of the Department of Environment, not a psychic. We do not have a lot of staff that we can relocate them to the YIDA project site [at any time]. If [a developer] told us they were going to begin in the next two weeks, and we were not ready in two weeks’ time, then we dropped the ball. But how can we work with developers if they do not tell us when they are going to begin?” she said.
Shortly after Black-Layne’s interview, Minister of Foreign Affairs, E.P. Chet Greene said no developer should have the ability to treat any authority with contempt.
“If there are procedural breaches, use procedural prescriptions to deal with them because no developer should be treating the authority with contempt,” he said.
The YIDA project was announced in 2014 after the Gaston Browne administration signed a contract with main shareholder, Yida Zhang, shortly after entering office.
However, the company has had to deal with several legal battles which caused delays and criticism for not acting quickly to implement its planned $2.2 billion investment.
The development was set to include the largest free trade zone in the country, an off-shore financial centre, a 5-star luxury resort, villa communities, a casino and gaming complex, a multi-purpose conference centre, a 27-hole golf course, a marina and landing facilities; commercial, retail, sports and other auxiliary facilities.