The priceless exchange – Development over Paradise

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By Concerned and Frustrated Citizen

Would you, a parent, murder your sons, daughters or grandchildren in cold blood? What about murdering them if you would make millions from that heinous crime? What about murdering your parents and grandparents or maybe even the physically challenged? Would you kill your relatives in exchange for millions? For most humans, I would imagine your answer is a resounding NO. THEN, how can you? How dare you? Why would you sit on your hands with crossed legs watching as the safety systems nature groomed over decades to take care of us are taken away; by someone else’s desire to leave to THEIR children generational wealth?

Imagine this with me: beautiful architecture, high rise buildings, bridges, gardens, parks, gulf courses, multiple factories and twice as many cars in this fair land of ours. Imagine a fancier Heritage Quay, our trans-shipment port and its own retail development in the Lower Newgate Street-Point area; imagine beautiful hotel properties and development projects on every popular beachfront; no access for locals to Fort James or Long Beach; no access to Devil’s Bridge or Shirley’s Heights because of the progressive development we quietly accepted over the years. Imagine millions of tourists disembarking in Antigua, still contributing more than 50% of the island’s revenue.

Is it worth it if our children will never know the paradise we have known? Visualise with me, use your mind’s eye and look ahead; see your children scampering, looking for safe haven as storm-force winds of the next decade blow the surrounding seas inland. Is it really worth it? What price is too great for the desecration of our paradise; the heart of the Caribbean; our home; our grandparents’ plantation and our grandchildren’s apocalypse? What price is too high? When do we say enough is enough?

Antigua was approved to receive US$32,000,000.00 from the Green Climate Fund as was requested by the Department of Environment, but how can those technicians sleep at night? What happened to their consciences? We have signed on to treaty and convention, upon treaty and convention; posed for a photo op here and there; we have received billions to preserve this paradise; but what has been done with the money? How was the money utilised? How credible is the Department of Environment when we see it align itself with projects and support by making false statements about the impact of projects in progress, and yet to come? Where was the Chief on environmental issues when Yida’s 10-15 Chinese employees, supported by the Public Works and Development Control Authority, local contractors and surveyors received Antigua’s custodians’ blessing to create roads where waterways existed, or to plant flamboyant trees where mangroves existed; or to continue to add limestone to the shoreline, or to have expressed intentions to dredge and construct a larger deep water harbour in a marine protected area? Where were the voices of the Department of Environment when the PLH group’s gulf course was sanctioned in yet another marine protected area? When will the Department of Environment and the Minister responsible for the Blue Economy stand up and publicly outline the dangers of every shoreline project proposed or in progress? What of the development being proposed for the Falmouth Harbour?

Have we no care for the future of this island or do we wish to wake up some day, floating across the Caribbean Sea on debris we managed to hold on to during a super storm? What will protect us in this land, when politicians, across the divide have secured property in concrete jungles the world over? Will they not leave us here to suffer and die? If a storm is upon us today or tomorrow, do you own a private jet or have access to resources that you could leave this island forthwith? IF NOT, I AM SPEAKING TO YOU! The time has fully come to condemn the type of development that will put ALL our lives at risk!

Do nothing and YIDA’s high rise building will crumble and create debris under the constant beating of high winds and storm surges! Do nothing and every waterway will be blocked, leaving the water backed up on us inland! Do nothing and YIDA’s deep water harbour and deep-sea fishing and harvesting will force every fisherman in this country out of the sea, unless of course ‘d Chinee man gi he one bligh.’ Do nothing and the seafood, turtle and even our beloved Antiguan Racer Snake will become endangered and then extinct! Do nothing and our children will have no future in this land! Do nothing and Antigua, Barbuda and their people, the endangered species will be a thing of the past. Who will stand up and fight “to safeguard our native land” and ensure and negotiate for sustainable development? Can we not build anything inland and travel out to the beaches? Does every developer need hundreds of acres to purchase?

We do not need any more ports of entry! We have enough beaches; there is no need to create anymore. We need our shoreline because it protects us from the ravages of natural disasters. We want our 100ft from the high-water mark as legally required on every beach on these two islands. We want our traditional access points to all our local beaches. We want tourism that incorporates locals and local flavours. We can share our homeland, we want development, yes, but not at the cost of our lives; not at the cost of our children’s lives; not at the cost of the future of Antigua and Barbuda.

I am not an environmentalist; I never even had much interest until I began to delve into the Special Economic Zone License issued to Mr Yida Zhang. Today, I am a mother, a young Antiguan woman who is disgusted at what is expected to be a major development at the expense of my children’s lives and potential livelihoods. I am frustrated at the destruction allowed to happen all around us, as if we have no respect for the blood, sweat and tears of our ancestors; all in the name of development. It is abhorrent that any patriotic Antiguan or Barbudan could allow this type of total destruction to take place in this little 2 by 0 island of ours. This is an injustice against me, my children and my generations! This is a genocide! This is an ecocide!

#saveAntigua #saveBarbuda #stopthisgenocide #stopthisecocide #saveparadise #yidasez

       Thoughts and views expressed in guest editorials do not necessarily reflect the opinion of Observer NewsCo, its management or staff.

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