By NEIL HARTNELL
Tribune Business Editor
The Bahamas Electricity Corporation (BEC) and four other industrial companies have been urged to “co-operate” in developing a plan that will enable them to “harmoniously co-exist” with other users of the Clifton Bay area.
In April 4, 2013, letters sent to the monopoly energy provider, plus Commonwealth Brewery, FOCOL, Esso and Rubis, the attorney for the Coalition to Protect Clifton Bay, Fred Smith QC, called on all five to produce their Certificate of Approval.
This certificate, awarded by the director of environmental health services, approves the methods and devices used by companies to prevent the discharge of harmful pollutants and spills into the environment.
Signalling a further ramp-up of the Coalition’s public advocacy efforts, Mr Smith’s letters also urged the five companies to provide it with details of any pollutant spillage reports filed with the Government in the past five years.
He also called on them to supply the Coalition with copies of any Environmental Impact Assessments (EIAs), pollution prevention and monitoring plans, and emission management strategies.
“The Coalition is concerned about the frequent oil spills, oil leakages, possible water table contamination and toxic and hazardous air emissions as a result of industrial activities in the Clifton Pier area,” Mr Smith wrote.
“The Coalition is particularly concerned about the impact of the discharge and emission of pollutants and contaminants in the marine environment.”
He added that the letter was designed to encourage their co-operation with the Coalition’s efforts to ensure that the different uses of Clifton Bay - residential, tourism, industrial and fisheries - could “co-exist for the mutual benefit of all, and for the benefit of the environment”.
Expanding on these themes in an interview with Tribune Business, Mr Smith said south-west New Providence was “a microcosm of development issues in the Bahamas”.
“It has unregulated development issues, eco-tourism, industrial, recreational and historical overtones,” the Callender’s & Co partner told Tribune Business.
“The harmonisation of these kinds of multi-usage, and the co-existence of different sectors of the economy, is an issue that must be grappled with, and responsibly dealt with, throughout the Bahamas.”
Despite this country’s rapid build-out as a tourism and second home destination over the past two decades, Mr Smith implied that the Bahamas had ‘seen nothing yet’ when it came to real estate-related development.
“The Bahamas is only just beginning to see the invasion of foreign interests,” he told Tribune Business.
“Nowhere else on the North American coastal seaboard is there a super abundance of virgin coastal development opportunities. The Bahamas stands poised on the precipice of coastal development.”
Turning more directly to the letters to the five companies, one of which is owned by the Government and taxpayer, and two that are publicly listed (Commonwealth Brewery and Shell/FOCOL), Mr Smith said one of the Coalition’s priorities was to deal with the level of sea and land pollution in the Clifton Bay area.
While not singling out any entity for blame, Mr Smith added: “There are several industrial plants in the area - BEC, Commonwealth Brewer, and the Esso, Rubis and Shell bunkering facilities, plus the jetties and docks lying off the Clifton Cliff.
“I have dived with Stuart Cove in those waters, and they are saturated with pools and drips of oil and pollution. Each industrial sector blames the other.”
Calling for better enforcement and legislation by the Government, Mr Smith said: “It is the responsibility of our government to determine the source of this pollution. It is the responsibility of my government to enact environmental protection laws, so that those that affect and pollute our environment our held accountable.
“The residential, industrial and touristic environment of Clifton Bay can harmoniously co-exist if a management plan is developed, in which each of the stakeholders respects each other and mitigates the potential harmful impacts of their footprint on the historical environment.”
Calling for all users of the Clifton Bay area to become “stewards of the land and sea”, Mr Smith urged the Prime Minister to build a legacy by “preserving and protecting the environment, while still promoting the various economies that exist in the Clifton area”.