Environmentalists ask Disney for clarity on EIA
Five environmental groups raised concerns over the adequacy of the environmental impact assessment (EIA) that is now underway for Disney Cruise Line’s proposed cruise ship port at Lighthouse Point in South Eleuthera.
In a letter to Senior Vice President of Enterprise Social Responsibility at the Walt Disney Company Elissa Margolis, Bahamas Reef Environment Educational Foundation (BREEF), EARTHCARE, reEarth, Save the Bays and Waterkeepers Bahamas expressed their concerns.
“We urge Disney to conduct a comprehensive EIA on the proposal for Lighthouse Point,” the group said.
“Consistent with U.S. and international practice, the EIA should include consideration of alternatives – including a ‘no-build’ alternative and location of the proposed cruise port at another site.
“The EIA also should provide detailed data on the economic benefit of the proposed project for The Bahamas and South Eleuthera.
“The economic benefits must be measured against the economic impacts of ecological damage from the proposed cruise port, and compared with economic impacts of alternative scenarios.
“It is our understanding that Disney has retained a small consulting firm located in Nassau to conduct its EIA.
“Disney has stated in their Environmental Stewardship Goals and Targets a committed to a ‘new era of transparency’, but there has been no public information about the scope of the assessment of the proposed project.
“We have seen little or no effort to seek input from our organizations and others with environmental expertise and experience at Lighthouse Point, nor any forum or mechanism for public input or consultation on the scope of the EIA – standard practice and a critical first step of a meaningful comprehensive assessment.”
Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis announced in March that the government signed a heads of agreement (HOA) for the $250 million to $400 million project amid raging public debate over the matter.
Environmentalists and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) have spoken out against the development potentially destroying the ecological and cultural assets of the environment.
The One Eleuthera Foundation and the Bahamas National Trust (BNT) were at the forefront of the resistance with their Save Lighthouse Point petition and lobbied the government for approval to turn the 700-acre property into a national park.
Shortly after the signing of the HOA, Disney Cruise Line Vice President of Public Affairs and Communications Kim Prunty indicated that an EIA had already begun.
To ensure the adequacy of the EIA, the environmental groups recommended a number of studies be conducted, including: geological and sediment surveys; coral surveys; essential fish habitat surveys; sea turtle surveys; marine mammal/sharks and other elasmobranch species surveys; seagrass surveys; ocean noise pollution studies; water conditions analyses; socioeconomic and cultural surveys; and others.
“The reality is that the Bahamas, a tiny nation of only 395,000 citizens, lacks a robust capacity to analyze and oversee the environmental impacts of major projects,” the groups said.
“Disney should not attempt to exploit these shortcomings.
“Indeed, we expect that Disney, a corporation with annual earnings many times greater than many nations, raise the standard in these islands in regard to environmental protection, as well as economic opportunity.”
Education: Virginia in Charlottesville, BA in Foreign Affairs and Spanish
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