Yida’s altered plan influenced gov’t decision

Prime Minister of Antigua & Barbuda Gaston Browne

Prime Minister Gaston Browne disclosed Thursday that Yida’s submission of a “modified” plan that reduces the destruction of mangroves, prompted the government to override laws that restrict development in the areas earmarked for the multi-million dollar Yida project.

The project falls within the environmentally-sensitive North East Marine Management Area (NEMMA) and the Cabinet’s decision clears the way for Yida to build beaches on Guiana Island.

The prime minister told OBSERVER media he could not remember when the altered documents were handed in but a source close to the project, who wished to remain anonymous, said it was about “a month or two ago”.

In a brief interview, Browne confirmed that new schematics show that only a “small portion” of the mangroves will be removed compared with the significant numbers that would have to be uprooted under the original diagrams.

During yesterday’s post-Cabinet press briefing, Information Minister Melford Nicholas had alluded to changes to the “unacceptable” plans, with a follow-up question netting the response, “I am saying that a modified plan is in contemplation”.

There was, however, no ambiguity when he articulated the government’s legal authority to override prohibitions in the laws that protect NEMMA as questioned early this week by marine biologist John Mussington, whose challenge was based on the Fisheries Act 2006 – that created and governs NEMMA.

In his response, the information minister reminded the marine biologist that more than one piece of legislation governs the marine protected areas. Nicholas not only suggested that Mussington is reading only one of the pertinent Acts that deals with the management of NEMMA, he added that the Fisheries Act cannot be seen as exclusive.

He added: “This is what happens when people attempt to mislead the public.”  He accused Mussington of creating obfuscation, adding that he “does not have the type of responsibility that exists in the Cabinet”.

In fact, Nicholas told critics of the Yida project, that mangroves “can grow back” and there may be “sacrifices” that have to be made along the way. He, however, promised that the Gaston Browne administration would be a responsible steward of the environment when converting the lands, flora and fauna into more profitable economic enterprises.

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