By Fay Simmons
Tribune Business Reporter
The Deputy Prime Minister yesterday reiterated that Royal Caribbean's proposed $110m Paradise Island project must meet the same environmental standards as those imposed on Atlantis and Baha Mar.
Chester Cooper, also minister of tourism, investments and aviation, addressing the ongoing environmental concerns over the cruise giant's Royal Beach Club, said: “I’ll just make the point once more for good measure. The same protocols that must be followed by Royal Caribbean are the same protocols that were followed, and have to be followed, by Atlantis and by Baha Mar. So if it was good enough for them, then it's good enough for Royal Caribbean.
"The conversation is continuing in relation to Royal Caribbean's development on Paradise Island. This is a standard process for consultation as a part of DEPPs (Department of Environmental Planning and Protection) programme for environmental assessments, and that public consultation is continuing. I have encouraged anyone who has concerns or feedback to make those concerns known to the DEPP and they will be considered.”
Mr Cooper voiced confidence in the DEPP's ability to properly vet Royal Caribbean's submissions, and said: “I am confident that the professionals at DEPP will do their work appropriately. And I encourage everyone who has a contribution to make - a concern or question, or some feedback - to present it to DEPP. Every comment, every question will be addressed appropriately by the developer. That's our undertaking.”
Environmental activists earlier this week took Mr Cooper at his word and submitted multiple questions and concerns to the DEPP. Joe Darville, Save the Bays executive chairman, wrote a letter to the DEPP’s director, Rhianna Neely-Murphy, highlighting 12 separate concerns over the proposed Royal Caribbean project that he and others want addressed.
He again voiced fears that the Royal Beach Club will lead to the "complete decimation" of western Paradise Island, and voiced concerns about the sustainability of accommodating a projected 2,750 to 3,000 average daily visitor volume.
"How did Royal Caribbean determine that its estimated daily use of the site by 2,750 to 3,000 visitors is acceptable?" Mr Darville asked. "Was it based at all on an analysis of the capacity of this narrow, fragile strip of land to hold up under such density and intensity of use? On 17 acres, that’s 176 people per acre.
"Given the requirement to dedicate land for the site’s power plant, waste treatment facilities, buildings, restaurant areas, performance stages and other structures, the density of people-per-acre will be even greater. Does this comport with DEPP best practices and established standards?"
And Eric Carey, former Bahamas National Trust executive director, who will review Royal Caribbean's environmental submissions on behalf of Atlantis, previously raised questions about the project's socio-economic impact as he asserted it will mean hundreds of cruise passengers bypass downtown Nassau businesses.