By Theresa Goodwin
Protecting the environment must be a priority, eco activists warn, as government outlines $2 billion worth of tourism development investments for 2020.
Environmental Awareness Group (EAG) chiefs urged the Gaston Browne-led administration to abide by its own policies when allowing major developments in the twin island country.
Comments from the EAG’s executive director Arica Hill followed Browne’s Budget address to the nation on Thursday in which the Prime Minister detailed a series of largescale projects.
The nation’s leader said the investments would generate an economic boom, creating more jobs, increasing income, and boosting demand for goods and services from which local businesses would benefit.
While the government was applauded for the projects listed in the Parliamentary Chamber yesterday, Hill reminded the government that investments should not be to the detriment of the local environment.
She also stated that meaningful consultation should take place with all relevant stakeholders before any development is approved.
“The Environmental Protection and Management Act, the Physical Planning Act and, in some cases the Fisheries Act, spells out how development should take place and considerations that must be made for the environment. Those are local policies that have taken into consideration all of the possible areas that need to be protected,” Hill said.
“Development and the environment can go hand in hand; there are many examples across the world. And so I believe that this is the perfect time for Antigua and Barbuda to demonstrate that we have the policies in place and we are going to follow them to the letter.”
The executive director said people set to be impacted by a development should be thoroughly informed as to what the project would mean for them.
She said such dialogue is often absent, pointing to the controversial multi-million dollar YIDA development as an example.
“There was no public consultation whatsoever on the development and the people living in the area have no idea as to what is really going on.
“We know that all these developments will come but we are hoping that they will come with the understanding that the environment is important. Involving the people that are going to be affected is very important,” Hill explained.
Investments tipped for 2020 include $325 million being spent on the PLH Ocean Club in Barbuda, a $125 million renovation and expansion project at the existing Rex Halcyon Hotel by Sunwing, the development of a $270 million beach club at Fort James by Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines, the $540 million One and Only Hotel and Luxury Villas at Pearns Point, the $100 million Armand Hotel Project in Barbuda, and a $540 million Port Oasis project at Side Hill.
The latter project will be undertaken by the Hadeed Group of Companies in conjunction with international partners. Once completed, this has the potential to receive calls from cruise lines including Virgin Voyages.
The National Asset Management Company Limited (NAMCO) is also expected to assume 65 percent ownership of the Jolly Beach Hotel and will spend $150 million expanding and refurbishing the property.
Meanwhile, PM Browne spoke of a number of other projects already underway, including a Best Western Hotel in Valley Road, a Marriott Courtyard Hotel at the airport, the Ayre Wellness Centre and Spa at Valley Church, the Replay Half Moon Bay project, and the YIDA development.
He said that many private luxury dwellings will also be constructed across Antigua and Barbuda, such as at Pearns Point, Jumby Bay, Mill Reef Club, Galley Bay Heights, Windward Beach, and the US$50 million Baron Thyssen luxury home at Laurie Bay, presently under construction.
Browne also disclosed that the new owners of Callaloo Cay will proceed with the hotel project at Morris Bay, starting construction later this year.