Cayman awaits environment assessment tools

Cayman is awaiting a system that could make it easier to spot potential environmental problems related to development policies.

Strategic environment assessments used in mainland Europe are being tweaked to localise them to Caribbean islands and overseas territories, according to Planning Director Kenneth Ebanks.

‘It is a management tool,’ Mr. Ebanks said, explaining how a strategic environmental assessment could be used. ‘For example, doing a new road, we’d use the SEA on that proposal.

‘You could in a couple of days, depending on the complexity of the proposal, identify some of the major environmental impacts which would then trigger a full environmental impact assessment.’

Consultants hired by the European Union and the Overseas Countries and Territories Association carried out a study of overseas territories which was examined at the April workshop in Belgium by representatives from those territories.

‘We got together at the workshop and went through the survey. As a result of that, we made some changes to the final draft to the SEA template,’ Mr. Ebanks said.

The Overseas Countries and Territories Association, comprising 17 countries and territories associated with four major European Union states, sponsored the workshop in Brussels, which focused on environmental impact assessments, which focus on individual projects, and strategic environmental assessments, which are used on policies, programmes and plans.

Both methods examine how environmental concerns can be incorporated into development policies, plans and programmes.

The Cayman Islands was represented by a four-member contingent of Deputy Chief Officer for the Ministry of Environment Samuel Rose, Planning Director Kenneth Ebanks and Department of Environment representatives Research Officer II Joni Kirkconnell and Sustainable Development Coordinator Lisa-Ann Hurlston-McKenzie.

The workshop examined existing environmental impact assessment procedures in various territories and in Europe.

Cayman does not currently have any legislation mandating a environment impact assessment process, although the Central Planning Authority can request a developer to carry out an impact assessment, which would be paid for by the developer.

An EIA was begun on a project to develop a four-berth cruise ship terminal and port facilities in George Town, but that is currently on hold.

An environmental impact assessment process is included in the draft National Conservation Bill. That legislation failed to make it through the Legislative Assembly before the House broke up in April.

In a presentation at the workshop, Mrs. Hurlston-McKenzie explained the Cayman Islands’ experience with implementing current EIA procedures, how the proposed EIA process would essentially codify existing informal arrangements with various approval authorities, and the manner by which triggers – such as locations and project types – would initiate the EIA process.

‘The two-tiered system would afford better environmental scrutiny of land-based and coastal works applications, plans and policies but would not necessarily result in full EIA studies carried out for all such proposals,’ she said.

Deputy Chief Officer for the Ministry of Environment Mr. Rose said, from a perspective of local policy development, ‘it was always clear that we need improvement in the process of our environmental impact assessments’.

Mr. Ebanks explained that Cayman could learn from the experiences of other countries and jurisdictions. ‘For example, Greenland is going through the planning process for what will probably be the world’s largest aluminium smelting plant. Bonaire is developing a land-use plan.

‘If Cayman received a similar development application, or experienced a particular impediment with our land use plan, we could consult with those counterparts. We would not have to follow their processes, but could select what is applicable locally,’ he said.

PIC: Brussels team.jpg

Caption: Pictured left to right: Planning Director Kenneth Ebanks; Department of Environment Research Officer II Joni Kirkconnell; DOE Sustainable Development Coordinator Lisa-Ann Hurlston-McKenzie, and Deputy Chief Officer for the Ministry of Environment Samuel Rose.

Photo: Submitted

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