By MORGAN ADDERLEY
Tribune Staff Reporter
ENVIRONMENTALISTS are calling for the entire 700-acre peninsula comprising the area known as Lighthouse Point, Eleuthera to be protected from commercial development.
In a press conference held yesterday, representatives from the Bahamas National Trust (BNT), reEarth, and Waterkeepers Bahamas responded to comments made by Tourism Minister Dionisio D’Aguilar on Thursday.
Mr D’Aguilar said although the property is privately owned, the government will not sanction the commercial development of the actual lighthouse site or the surrounding beach.
However, he said the debate is continuing as to whether the entire property will be deemed “off-limits” for commercial development or if the government will allow a portion of it to be developed.
Disney Cruise Line is said to be one of several groups making proposals to acquire and develop the area.
Eric Carey, BNT Executive Director, said while he commends the Minister’s statement, the property “is larger than just some tiny little space” and the whole area should instead be reserved for more sustainable development and sustainable long-term jobs.
“I want to note the significance of what (Mr D’Aguilar) said yesterday, in that the Point itself, the actual Point, which is a small part of the Lighthouse Point property, should be preserved and that it shouldn’t be developed,” Mr Carey said.
“But you know you’re really talking about the lighthouse and the little beach area. What the minister also spoke about was then that…maybe the cruise ship could co-exist with what we’re proposing.
“And we’re saying that we don’t accept that. We don’t think that any type of unsustainable development, which is what the cruise ship concept is, is acceptable at the peninsula of the southern tip of Eleuthera. And we’re encouraging government to reject the sale to any entity that does not guarantee…sustainable development.”
“So, yes, the Point, according to the Minister, should…be protected. And we certainly thank the minister for that statement. And he went there and he saw it and he was impressed by it.
“But we’re saying, let’s go a step further and accept a sustainable development model for Lighthouse point property, the 700 acres. And we’re saying to government: do not approve the sale of that entire property to an unsustainable development.
Mr Carey said sustainable alternatives for the site development include a research facility, small eco-lodge, and a national park component.
The jobs provided by these initiatives could rival the numbers of those provided by a cruise ship port, Mr Carey said.
“(The cruise line is) saying they can produce 100 jobs, 120 jobs. We know that that site directly could produce 120 jobs.”
“There’s already a cruise ship there at Princess Cays, and we believe one cruise ship there is more than enough. Let’s resist,” he continued.
Sam Duncombe, of reEarth Bahamas, suggested Disney share the port at Princess Cays.
Mrs Duncombe also called for the country to invest in more diverse development models.
“While we understand that the Bahamas has basically followed one mode of development for the past 50 years – foreign direct investment, it often comes with the high price of lack of transparency, degraded communities and environments,” she said.
“We cannot stress enough that a cruise port that decimates the environment, restricts access, and has a one-sided economic benefit, for the cruise ship company, is no longer a business model which benefits or sustains the Bahamian people or our fragile environment.”
Mrs Duncombe added the environmental organization Mission Blue has added Lighthouse Point as one of its “Hope Spots”. These are “special places that are critical to the health of the ocean — Earth’s blue heart,” Mrs Duncombe quoted in a statement.
She said local organizations which support Saving Lighthouse Point include the BNT, reEarth, Save the Bays, Waterkeepers Bahamas, Bannerman Town, Millars, John Millars, Eleuthera Association, Bahamas Reef Environment Educational Foundation, Earthcare, and Raising Awareness about the Bahamas Landfill.