By Orville Williams

Along with scrutinising the environmental effects that are expected to be caused by the Peace, Love and Happiness (PLH) project in Barbuda, one local environmentalist is also calling for a complete revision of the Environmental Impact Assessment.

Marine Biologist, John Mussington, is urging an adherence to due diligence in the assessment – noting that all the necessary protocols were not adhered to in the previous EIA. This, he suggests, can be corrected by redoing the assessment.

“They mentioned that there was an Environmental Impact Assessment done [in 2018]. Now, the Environmental Impact Assessment process has to be done a particular way – the whole purpose of that is for you to look at possible impact, look at alternatives, and one option that always must be forefront is that ‘no, this area is not suitable, go somewhere else’; that’s an option that must be built in,” he said.

“The other critical aspect of an Environmental Impact Assessment is that you have to examine social implication, people’s livelihoods – you must inform and involve in the process of the EIA, the people who own the resource and who are going to be most impacted by the project.

“That was not done, which, in my book, tells you that that process is severely flawed and it should be rejected out of hand – and new impact assessments done with this particular plan,” he further explained.

Mussington is also making the case, that, while there are several effects that will be felt during and immediately after the PLH development, there are also important issues that will arise long after.

“It is a known fact today that we are going to be getting hurricanes. It is also a known fact that coastlines that are intact, are your best insurance against those consequences of climate change, like sea- level rise [and] more severe storms. In particular, wetlands, play a critical role in protecting the shoreline, protecting your sea life and protecting you from the ravages of any storm,” he said.  

“Now, the Codrington Lagoon National Park…this status as a National Park and a Ramsar site – which is a designation meaning that it is a wetland that has international significance – was not come by easily. It took years of research, years of work [and] years of funding to get it to that level, to protect such an important asset.”

“So, when you’re going to be doing a project like this, [it] will have severe impact and actually damage the integrity of the area in such a way that it’s not going to be able to continue to deliver the ecosystem services. [Additionally], your food security (fisheries), your tourism, the clear waters, the atmosphere that you sell as a tourism product, all that is going to be impacted. You run the risk now of losing it, and so it’s going to affect your economy in the long run”, Mussington explained.

The environmentalist also commented on the recently-held meeting regarding the PLH project, saying that while there are still strong feelings about the development, he was pleased with what the meeting meant for Barbudans.

“To me, the meeting was a successful one…it was the first time that Barbudans were essentially given the information regarding this particular plan that the PLH devised for the Codrington Lagoon National Park – that protected area.” “So, from that perspective, to have members from the Department of Environment [and] other environmental experts (e.g. Dr. Adele Blair and myself) there, it was very informative for [Barbudans] and gave them the opportunity for the first time, to have a say in something which has the potential for affecting their lives in such a serious way”, he stated.