Gaps in the silt barriers at Cat Cay.
By RASHAD ROLLE
Tribune Staff Reporter
ENVIRONMENTAL activists claim they have evidence showing the development at South Cat Cay is harming the environment.
In 2015, the Christie administration signed a heads of agreement for a $94m luxury boutique resort project at the cay. When finished, the project is anticipated to comprise a 53 room five-star branded boutique hotel with related amenities, 29 marina condo units, 37 residential units, 137 slip marina, restaurants, shops and recreational facilities.
Dr Enrique Murciano and his wife, wealthy residents of Florida, are partners in the project alongside Ernesto Salvador, a citizen of Ecuador.
The construction phase of the project, former Prime Minister Perry Christie said previously, is expected to create 75 jobs while 170 Bahamians could be employed when the resort is complete.
Activists from Save the Bays, Waterkeepers Bahamas and Save Our Home-Bimini flew over South Cat Cay last week to inspect the environmental impact of developments at the cay.
The groups said it appears the necessary silt barriers are not in place at the development.
“Memories of the same devastation at the hands of Resorts World Bimini in 2014 during the dredging of the cruise ship pier spring to mind, with the same ineffectually yellow silt curtains that within two weeks of being installed broke open, covering the ocean in drifting polystyrene and beaches to this day, covered in yellow plastics,” said a statement by the groups.
“Large populations of turtles used to be seen on the cays around South Cat, just like they did offshore from RW Bimini. Now the water is so muddy with silt, nothing can be seen and in Bimini an annual Power Boat Grand Prix is organised around the very reefs that are home to turtles and sharks.”
The statement added: “Bimini and South Cat Cay has a blessing and curse, a blessing that it is at the top of the Bahamas chain and so brings an abundance of tourism to these shores, but a curse that successive governments seem to cash in on in taxes from such large-scale developments, none of which is seen invested back into the local communities. As Fred Smith, QC, has pointed out, until we have local governance and taxes made on these islands invested back into local community developments, instead of going into the countries capital never to be seen again, the family islands will continue to deteriorate and decline.
“One would think, that when heads of agreement come together, that a budget could be put in place with the developers to financially cover the employment of an on-site environmental advisor to monitor the development and provide weekly reports that all is in keeping with plans laid out, providing jobs for Bahamians and protecting our shores. Instead, developers seem to think they have carte blanche to do whatever they like while no one is watching. Accountability seems sadly lacking throughout the Bahamas’ development. At the end of the day, we are left with our natural resources ransacked and foreign developers pulling out, once the damage is already done.”
The activists said new legislation is needed to put the environment first to save the country’s natural resources before it is too late.
“With the Bahamas being such low-lying islands and global warming and sea levels rising, it makes no sense not to put new environmental legislation at the top of the priorities list moving forward.”
Environment Minister Romauld Ferreira, a former member of Save the Bays, could not be reached for comment up to press time yesterday.