On October 9th, Waterkeepers Bahamas, reEarth, BREEF, Save the Bays, and Waterkeeper Alliance sent an open letter to Prime Minister Minnis requesting that their proposed detailed revisions to The Department of Environmental Planning and Protection’s Draft 2020 Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) Regulations for Lighthouse Point be fully considered before the new Regulations are approved by Parliament.
On July 29th, the Department requested input from the Bahamian partner groups on the 2020 Draft EIA regulations prepared by the Bahamian Ministry of Environment and Housing. After extensive consultations with local and international experts, the organization submitted on Sept. 3rd detailed recommendations for revised regulations. The proposed revisions clarified and strengthened language to assure public engagement in the process, including for appeals. They specified the use of a regularly-updated website to meet the need for easy public access to information about the environmental review process. They also added stronger requirements for the consideration of all of the environmental impacts of projects, including public health, social, and economic effects. Finally, the proposed revisions require that climate change be considered in all assessments.
The groups were pleased to engage in a September 14th virtual meeting with the Department of Environmental Planning and Protection to discuss the submission. However, the groups were notified the very next day that a final draft of the regulations had just been tabled in the House of Assembly.
Sam Duncombe, Executive Director, reEarth, added: “We put a significant amount of time and energy into these solicited comments, which proposed important revisions to make the EIA process more effective and efficient. We are eager for the Government to pause the consideration of the tabled regulations until our submission is fully considered. This is no time to be watering down our ability to protect our vital, fragile ecosystems, and our communities. This is why strengthening the regulations is so important.”
Casuarina Mckinney-Lambert, Executive Director, Bahamas Reef Environment Educational Foundation, added: “The Bahamas is facing some of the most severe threats from climate change. We are at a turning point when it comes to ensuring a sustainable environment and economy. Strong EIA regulations are essential to accomplishing this goal, and climate change and other critical impacts must be considered in all developments.”
The consideration of these regulations also comes as The Bahamian Government appears to be moving ahead with its initial review of Disney Cruise Line’s plans for a massive cruise ship port at Lighthouse Point on the southernmost tip of Eleuthera—in spite of the current shutdown of the cruise ship industry and Disney’s major economic challenges. On September 25th, it was announced by the Department of Environmental Planning and Protection Director Newbold that in a “matter of weeks” the review of EIA for the project by the Department would be completed and the document would be released for public review and consultation.
Joe Darville, Executive Director, Save the Bays, added: “The Bahamas must build back even better as we struggle to cope with COVID and continue to recover from Hurricane Dorian. In order to do so, we have to make sure large-scale international developments like the one proposed at Lighthouse Point are in fact good deals for us. That is why we need strong EIA regulations so the public is given the information about the benefits and costs and has a real say. We welcome the opportunity to work with the Department further to ensure that the regulations are as robust as possible.”
Marc Yaggi, Executive Director, Waterkeeper Alliance, added: “There is resounding global interest in Disney’s environmental impact assessment at Lighthouse Point, as more than 320,000 people have supported our petition urging a more sustainable and climate-resilient project. We are eager to work with our Bahamian partners and the Government to make sure that this environmental review is truly world-class.”