One of the aims of the Young Progressives is to educate the youth of the Cayman Islands and the community as a whole on national issues currently faced by our country. One of the issues that we have been keeping ourselves educated on is the topic of the newly proposed berthing facility.
As young Caymanians, and the future of this country, we have serious concerns regarding the short and long term effects the construction of this berthing facility will have on the delicate ecosystem of the Cayman Islands. While we realize that the building of this berthing facility is something that has been in discussion for some time, we are shocked by the blatant disregard for the Cayman environment, as evidenced by the current administration’s decision to abandon the all encompassing Environmental Impact Assessment that was proposed by the PPM administration.
Additionally, we have concerns regarding the method in which the contract for a development such as this was awarded and the uncertainty that now exists with this issue. Since the Auditor General has announced his review of the project to date, we now hear that no contract was awarded but that instead the government has signed an MOU with DECCO. There seems to be more questions than answers. We feel strongly that the contract for this project should have been awarded through the Central Tendering Committee, without any political interference. In a capitalist society, nothing is free; and with the Florida Caribbean Cruise Association and/or individual cruise lines funding a project of this magnitude, we have insufficient guarantees that the Caymanians working within the tourism sector will benefit from this alliance.
During the PPM administration, the previous Minister of Tourism, Mr. Charles Clifford made the decision to not proceed with any port developments until a comprehensive EIA could be completed. The purpose of the EIA was to ensure that decision makers had the scientific information needed to determine whether this project was a viable option for the Cayman Islands and if it was, whether adjustments needed to be made to the design and/or construction methodology to mitigate any potential impact on our natural and built environment. Once the results of the EIA were received, and assuming the project was determined to have only minimal effect on our ecosystem, all stakeholders would have been able to receive information on how the construction of this facility could, for example, affect our marine life, create changes in the direction and/or strengths in currents and changes in the clarity of our water and what actions were proposed to mitigate or eliminate those risks. We feel that it is important for the Caymanian public to know that under the proposals made by the PPM administration in regards to the building of this facility, the EIA would have been completed by now and the choice to abandon the PPM’s plans by the current administration has caused further delays, perhaps as much as a year, with this project.
Tourism flourishes on our Island because of its natural beauty; crystal clear waters, that mimic polished glass, white sand beaches with grains so fine that it’s more smooth than rough to the touch, lush green vegetation and home to countless species of natural wildlife. Previous failures to complete adequate EIA’s, have left a generation of people saying “we should have” instead of saying “we’re glad we did”.
To engage in a development such as a port expansion in the George Town Harbour without an EIA for the sake of tourism is ludicrous, counterproductive and ironically puts at significant risk the very thing that we should be trying to protect, our tourism industry! Our ecosystem is unstable due to rapid development in a short period of time and should it receive any more abuse from the hands of developers, what will the state of our beautiful Cayman Islands be once this development is completed? Will the tourists still come to disembark on the new berthing facilities when our water is no longer clear? When the currents are too strong to swim in? When the reefs have withered and died?
We therefore urge the current administration to review their present Terms of Reference and ask that they include a comprehensive EIA as was originally proposed by the PPM government. Our environment is not, and should never be, a bargaining chip for the sake of money. It is irreplaceable and it is our God given duty to take care of this Island and ensure that its’ environment continues to flourish for generations to come. The Caymanian people have the right to be informed about the effects this development will have on our ecosystem and the environment on a whole. We therefore challenge the current administration to reconsider their position on this project, thus making a step that is truly for the betterment of the Caymanian people and these three beautiful Cayman Islands.