Prime Minister Gaston Browne is unapologetic about the removal of mangroves to make way for the YIDA resort project on Guiana Island, and stated that the development of Antigua and Barbuda will come at an environmental cost.
“There is no way in which you can pursue any development that involves land without any impact…and that is why my Cabinet took the political decision to give an override so there could be some surgical removal of mangroves to create about two or three beaches. We are not apologizing about that,” Browne said.
In Parliament on Friday, the Environmental Protection and Management Bill 2019 gave rise to serious discussions involving the public’s criticism of environmental practices.
Browne took the opportunity to address claims that the government is involved in “environmental genocide” saying a balance has to be created between economic development and environmental cost, making reference to YIDA’s projects.
However, he said, efforts are being made to mitigate the impact and make the cleared land greener in years to come.
According to the Prime Minister, discussions took place last Wednesday in Cabinet where an architect involved in the YIDA venture advised the government that steps will be taken to mitigate its impact on the environment.
He also stated that YIDA’s undertaking will eventually produce over 100 thousand trees.
These comments came just after the Environmental Protection and Management Bill 2019 was passed by the House of Representatives.
Meanwhile, Rick Solberg, Chairman of Archipelagoes Design – the company leading the architectural plans for the YIDA project – said a specialist who conducted surveys of the shorelines revealed that many of the mangrove plants around the project are unhealthy.
“We hired a consultant out of Jamaica and he flew in and basically did a physical survey and investigated the entire shoreline along the mainland [and] from that survey determined that the healthiest mangroves are in the areas which we are going to preserve,” Solberg said on the Prime Minister’s radio station over the weekend.
According to Solberg, other mangroves around the shorelines were also examined and the report concluded that they were not healthy. He said those are the mangroves that will be affected.
Solberg added that a 40- to 60-acre area is to be set aside for a nursery where the 100 thousand trees, which the Prime Minister spoke of in Parliament, will be nurtured.
The plan is to transplant these trees all over the YIDA project sites in order to make the land attractive.