EDITOR, The Tribune
The recent oil spill on the southeast coast of Mauritius is a reminder that drilling for oil in The Bahamas is a recipe for disaster.
On July 25, 2020 the Japanese owned mv Wakashio sustained damage when it hit and destroyed a coral reef near Pointe D’Esny, a sanctuary for rare wildlife and important wetlands.
At the beginning of August, oil leaking from the ship turned the colour of the ocean from pristine turquoise to thick dark toxic waste. A state of environmental emergency was declared and a unique, bio-diverse marine ecosystem was polluted with more than 1,000 tonnes of diesel and oil.
Insufficiently equipped to handle the disaster, the people of Mauritius attempted to reduce the damage of the oil spill by making absorbent barriers stuffed with straw, leaves and human hair.
On August 15 the ship broke into two pieces. Photos of the devastation are heart-breaking.
In a short period of time, 35 years of work by the wildlife foundation to restore the area has been compromised and ruined. Jean Hugue Gardenne of the Mauritian Wildlife Foundation says: “We have planted about 200,000 indigenous trees to restore the coastal forest. We re-introduced endangered birds, including the pink pigeon, the olive white-eye and the critically endangered Mauritius fody to the Isle aux Aigrettes. Now all this is threatened as the oil is seeping into the soil and the coral reefs.”
Happy Khambule, Greenpeace Africa’s Senior Climate and Energy Campaign Manager summarizes the catastrophe by saying: “Thousands of species around the pristine lagoons of Blue Bay, Pointe d’Esny and Mahebourg are at risk of drowning in a sea of pollution, with dire consequences for Mauritius’ economy, food security and health.” He adds: “Mauritians had nothing to gain from the mv Wakashio crossing their waters and are now asked to pay the price of this disaster.”
The tragic reality currently faced by Mauritians is the reality that Bahamians will inevitably experience if Bahamas Petroleum Company (BPC) – or anyone – drills for oil in The Bahamas.
Registered in The Isle of Man, BPC shows maps on its website of 100% BPC Southern Licences, 100% BPC Northern Licence, 100% BPC Applications Pending, and Proposed Drilling Locations in The Bahamas.
Simon Potter, Chief Executive Officer of BPC writes: “The Company has a clear and unambiguous obligation under its licences to drill an initial exploration well in The Bahamas during 2020. Discharge of this obligation will then allow the Company to enter the next exploration period, running for a further three years, and in the event of success seek a 30-year production lease that would allow for development of any discovered commercial reserves.”
Drilling was scheduled for the beginning of 2020, but COVID-19 and the hurricane season forced BPC to postpone its plans until the end of 2020. Although Mr. Potter would like to reassure Bahamians that BPC’s oil project is safe and beneficial for The Bahamas, it’s time to face the facts and tell it like it is:
The process of drilling and shipping oil in The Bahamas is not safe, will never be safe, and will not benefit Bahamians.
Drilling for oil is not going to reduce or solve our problems; it will only exacerbate and create more problems.
This is our country. Visitors are welcome to visit but not to take over, exploit or destroy The Bahamas.
We must educate and invest in Bahamians, and we must work together to protect and preserve our natural resources. Our lives and future generations depend on it.
Swift and decisive action must be taken now to ensure that oil drilling is banned in The Bahamas.
FORWARD, UPWARD, ONWARD, TOGETHER
August 26, 2020