By Shermain Bique-Charles
While he continues the fight to save Seaforth Beach and the surrounding mangroves from development, campaigner Raul Samuel is urging the government to consider the long-term ramifications of other large-scale projects.
More than 500 acres of land between Jennings and Five Islands have been identified for the country’s second special economic zone, and the plans for the project – including hotels and private villas – could result in the destruction of one of the country’s most valuable wetland areas, opponents say.
Samuel says, if the project is to go ahead as planned, it could have devastating effects in the future.
“Look at the mangroves – we get fish from them, lobsters from them, there are people who get conch. So that’s a direct effect on our Gross Domestic Product [GDP],” he told Observer.
According to Samuel, if the wetlands are destroyed or compromised, the country’s import bill could increase.
“When the projects they bring in serve us no economic purpose, our import bill must go up because we would have to import lobsters and fish … So there is a domino effect,” Samuel explained.
He also reiterated the point that he is not anti-development, acknowledging it as necessary for the growth of the nation, but added that it’s crucial for the impact on the natural environment to be minimised.
“Fishermen will be put out of work. Their fish catch will decease. What do we get when the mangroves are gone? We have closed season for some fish and they need the mangroves to spawn, yet we destroy the mangroves. Why have closed season anyway?” Samuel questioned.
He called on the government to “pause and take a look at it; there can be development without total destruction. We need development but we don’t need to destroy everything in the wake of this development”.
Earlier this month, Samuel organised a walkthrough of the area to sensitive more local residents to its unique features that he fears will be destroyed by the project.
He continues to encourage the public to join the fight to protect it. In early January, Samuel launched an online petition – which has now garnered more than 2,300 signatures – calling for the works to be scaled back.
Developers plan to build hotels, shops, theme parks, a cryptocurrency centre, casino, private homes, a financial district, warehouses, hospitals and universities.
The main investor Vijender Singh has pledged the works will be carried out in an environmentally friendly manner, and that the project will ultimately create jobs and boost the country’s economy.