MEMBERS of the newly formed Coalition to Protect Clifton Bay took to the airwaves to share their agenda and clarify some of the “thorny issues” surrounding the heritage site.
They described the threats to Clifton Bay as “extraordinarily catastrophic” and emphasised that the passage of an Environmental Protection and Freedom of Information Act were essential to protecting the marine heritage of the area, and the Bahamas as a whole.
The two Bahamian attorneys, Fred Smith and Romauld Ferreira, are both noted for their strong contributions to environmental consultation and advocacy – Mr Smith for more than 35 years and Mr Ferreira for more than 20.
Mr Smith’s environmental work includes the formation of environmental lobbies on several islands, including the Grand Bahama, Bimini, Abaco.
He also mounted ground-breaking litigation on environmental issues, in particular “Save Guana Cay”, starting at the Supreme Court all the way to the Privy Council on behalf of grass roots organisations.
In the most recent battle, Abaco Cares and Responsible Development For Abaco stopped the use of the toxic Bunker C fuel at the new Wilson City power plant erected by Bahamas Electricity Corporation in Abaco.
Mr Ferreira, who is an ecologist as well, has been heavily involved with environmental research and the preparation of environmental impact assessments.
Speaking on a Love97 FM radio show, Mr Smith called for unity among Bahamians and, as a political priority for the Coalition, the passage of environmental legislation.
“The environment has been a priority item both for the FNM and the PLP in their election manifestos. It’s time to push for an Environmental Protection Act. It is one of the priorities of the Coalition. A second priority is to push for the establishment of a marine park,” Smith said.
“The Coalition will promote positive steps towards marrying the land and sea in one park which can be enjoyed for future generations by so many Bahamians who live in New Providence and, of course, the millions of guests that come to visit us.”
The Freeport attorney went on to explain the unique natural resources that are to be found in Clifton Bay and its environs.
“At the start of Clifton Bay is what Stuart Cove, one of our members, described as a seven-mile reef. It’s one of the most beautiful barrier reefs that the Bahamas has and the Coalition is devoted to saving that reef and other areas of Clifton Bay for the many opportunities they present for eco-tourism.”
As expected from recent media articles on the subject, the issue of Nygard Cay/Simms Point came to the fore.
“There is also the issue of the Nygard Cay/Simms Point area, which I know has been very controversial of late,” Smith said.
He noted that there have been claims of reclamation of land without permits.
Mr Smith admitted that he is not sure whether or not permits exist, but said either way, there are concerns that the structures recently built in the area may affect the seabed and the flow of sand into the rest of Clifton Bay.
He added: “Importantly, the Coalition is also promoting a Freedom of Information Act. Throughout the civilised world… a FOI goes hand-in-hand with environmental protection. The one without the other often disadvantages any grass-roots organisations or environmental NGOs that wish to take issue with development or the programmes that are potentially negatively affecting the environment.”
Smith also identified oil spills in Clifton Bay and on Clifton Cay as an area of great concern for the Coalition.
“Of particular importance to many who run the Coalition is the oil situation. I myself have dived there a few times recently and the oil leakage through the ground directly into the water at Clifton Bay is extraordinarily catastrophic. I just don’t know how Nassauvians have put with the extent of the oil pollution. It’s everywhere. It’s floating on the top of the sea.
“There are the brown particulates that are used to try to soak it up. There are soap and suds everywhere. It’s an eyesore, as well as a hazardous toxic waste situation and this, of course, is also happening in Freeport.”
Show host Wendell Jones challenged the Coalition’s focus on Clifton Bay.
“I hear you emphasising Clifton, but… there have been many other areas of the Bahamas other than Clifton that have been disturbed, but your committee really is focusing on Clifton Bay,” he said.
But Mr Ferreira called the area “a microcosm of the unique environments” of the Bahamas and the developmental pressures weighing on them.
“Clifton Bay is very special because it has all of the unique ecosystems that make the Bahamas. It has diverse development and use challenges.
“So, at Clifton, you not only have the 7-mile reef; on the other side you have the Tongue of the Ocean, you have the recreational tourism activities, you have industrial activities, you have residential homes, you have the historic site.
“Then you have the development pressure that’s being applied against a backdrop of little or no regulations. And so, here you have a microcosm of what challenges the entire country.
“Because, if we are successful in dealing with the issues at Clifton Bay it has very helpful ramifications and wider implications which are tremendous for the rest of the Bahamas.”