In a response to the news that the Court had ruled against Yida Zhang in his financial impasse with Lux Locations, He of a High Place lamented the fact that Zhang had invested (allegedly) some US$200 million in the YIDA project in the North East Marine Management Area (NEMMA), and might not be able to realize a return on his investment. He ended his . . . uh . . . epitaph by declaring that we are all losers in this latest Court development. Here’s what the good PM had to say: “Mr Yida has invested over US$200 million in acquiring land and building out the infrastructure on his zone; it would appear that he has not been as successful in attracting investment to the zone as he anticipated. From all indications, and based on what I have seen in the news, he may be having some issues and we continue to wish him the best and hope that he will be able to resolve those [legal] issues, and that he will be able to attract the necessary business to make his zone a success. It doesn’t benefit any of us if [Zhang] fails to attract further businesses and there is failure, but again as you know, it is the nature of business; we have winners and losers, and it would be unfortunate if he ends up as a loser as we recognise the kinds of commitment and funds he has invested so far.” [‘No one benefits from failure’: PM reacts to YIDA court ruling, DAILY OBSERVER, September 21, 2023] Boo hoo!
While wilful and wanton operatives, who care naught about the environment may be crying in their beer over the loss of opportunities to rape Mother Nature and make make money in the NEMMA, Mother Nature herself is breathing a sigh of relief. With the profligate and unconscionable destruction of the mangroves, YIDA violated our environment and all that we hold dear. And as you can imagine, we were even more outraged when he appeared on State media to plead his case, while shedding crocodile tears. It was a pathetic performance, grade B acting at its worst. Mother Nature was hardly impressed, neither were we.
The mangroves that YIDA indiscriminately destroyed protect inland areas from storm surges and tidal encroachment; they act as a sieve, preventing plastic bottles, cans and other detritus from entering the ocean. Their dense roots help bind and build soils, thereby preventing erosion. And of course, they extract harmful CO2 from the atmosphere. Yes, much like other plants, mangroves take carbon dioxide from the air as they photosynthesise. They use this carbon dioxide to produce more leaves. As a result, this carbon gets locked in the leaves instead of the air. This is why plants, forests, grasslands and mangroves are called “carbon sinks.”
Mangroves are the basis of a highly productive and biologically rich ecosystem that is home to an enormous range of species of birds, mammals, invertebrates and fish which help to support people through fisheries and tourism. Mangroves provide critical food, shelter, spawning and refuge functions. The network of mangrove roots can help reduce the effect of boisterous waves, limit erosion and shield coastal communities from storms and hurricanes. Indeed, even in times of hurricanes, they have proven to be a safe haven for vessels seeking to ride out the storm.
· The mangroves in Antigua and Barbuda are the hatcheries for many marine creatures; even the fowl of the air find a home in the mangroves. For example, thousands of the famous Frigate Birds in Barbuda, live in the mangroves of the lagoon in Codrington. Even millions of migrating birds find temporary rest and shelter in our mangroves.
Alas! YIDA did not care about such small matters as the destruction of a few mangrove trees. Not when they had an area to develop with high-rise buildings and five-star hotels and factories. Not when they were going to remove sand from areas around Antigua, and barge it to the YIDA shoreline to build a beach. Sounds fanciful, eh? It was. Mother Nature wept.
Interestingly, the word was that YIDA would be attracting other high-end investors to partner with the project and bring all the grandiose dreams to fruition. Yeah, right! Seems, no one was interested in partnering with this Yida Zhang fella, neither were they interested in doing business in Antigua and Barbuda. Apparently, something or someone chases them away. We have already cited in these pages the thirty-plus projects that have been announced, with much fanfare, mind you, for Antigua and Barbuda by this reverse-Midas-touch Administration, that have perished in the womb. YIDA is one of them, as is the Western Imperial Special Economic Zone (WISEZ) – another fly-by-night project that threatened to rape and pillage our largest wetland area. Mercifully, the WISEZ folks seem to have high-tailed it out of Anything-Goes-Antigua, and again, Mother Nature breathes a sigh of relief.
Last we heard, some of the mangroves that had been unceremoniously removed by the WISEZ developers have begun growing again, and crabs, shrimp and other sea creatures whose habitats were rudely covered by maul, have been able to return to their old stomping grounds. Hallelujah! Nature has a remarkable ability to heal itself, if left to its own devices.
We are not against development, but not development at the expense of the environment. Mother Nature ought not to be sacrificed on the altar of high-rise buildings and five-star hotels. Development must be done with as little harm as possible to the environment, that is, judiciously, with due care and attention. It appears as though some in high places in the YIDA development did not care much about that pesky little thing called the environment. In this new age of environmental consciousness, investors are now greatly concerned about climate change and sustainable development. It’s called moral investing. They do not want their monies tied up with companies that leave a large carbon footprint (the supposed factories at YIDA) and destroy the environment. They are now interested, more than ever, in such things as climate and environmental justice.
So when He of a High Place is prattling-on about ‘nobody benefits,’ we beg to differ. We suggest that Mother Nature benefits. We further suggest that all those who care about protecting our environment, with ‘sustainable development’ as the watchwords, benefit. And yes, of course, future generations also benefit.
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