In a last chance effort to persuade Disney Cruise Line (DCL) executives to rethink their controversial plan to develop a cruise port at Lighthouse Point, South Eleuthera, several environmentalists yesterday announced the launch of a new digital campaign against the project.
The campaign features a website called
“StopDisney.com”, which details their concerns and encourages supporters to sign their petition.
In a statement announcing the campaigning, the group said, “The [Waterkeeper] Alliance joins its partners Waterkeepers Bahamas and Save the Bays, along with the Bahamas Reef Environment Education Foundation, EARTHCARE, and reEarth, in inviting people to join the campaign to save this unique, natural site of extraordinary beauty treasured by generations of Bahamians and visitors from the U.S. and worldwide.”
The government signed a heads of agreement with DCL for the project on March 7. The development is expected to cost between $250 million and $400 million. Disney has already started pre-qualifying contractors for the project in South Eleuthera.
Responding to the new campaign in a statement of its own, DCL said, “From the beginning, we have said we will only move forward with our project at Lighthouse Point if we can do so in an environmentally responsible manner.
“As we have shared with these organizations directly, our own internal team of animal and conservation experts is working closely with a highly qualified team of Bahamians and an experienced international firm to develop a comprehensive Environmental Impact Assessment and Environmental Management Plan that align with our company’s deep and longstanding commitment to the environment.
“Once we submit the draft EIA, which is based on more than a year of field work and analysis, it will be reviewed by government and made available for public consultation.”
The company said it remains committed to developing less than 20 percent of the property, employing sustainable building practices, establishing environmental monitoring programs during construction and operation and donating more than 190 acres of the privately-owned land to the government for conservation and public use, among other commitments.
However, environmentalists remain unconvinced.
Sam Duncombe, executive director of reEarth, insisted that there are better, more suitable development options for South Eleuthera than the proposed cruise ship port, while Joe Darville, executive director of Save the Bays, urged the company to work with citizen groups on alternatives that would provide sustainable economic benefits for the island.
Darville also called it alarming that Disney is moving forward with qualifying contractors for construction work at Lighthouse Point before the EIA is completed.
Also adding to the echo of support against the project is Marc Yaggi, executive director of Waterkeeper Alliance.
“Disney needs to do more than just rush through a minimal government process in The Bahamas. It needs to seriously consider the environmental, economic, and social costs of this proposed cruise port,” said Yaggi.
“We’re calling on Disney to commit to preserving Lighthouse Point for current and future generations by finding a more suitable alternative site for its cruise ships.”
The group also claimed that despite sending a detailed letter to DCL executives on May 2, the company remains dismissive of their concerns and their offer of cooperation.
In response to that May 2 letter, Disney’s Vice President of Animals, Science and Environment, Dr. Mark Penning, penned in a June 12 letter that many of the environmentalists’ suggestions do not apply because DCL is not dredging a ship channel.
“Of the remaining suggestions, the majority are already in our existing scope and are being addressed,” he added.
The group maintains that its latest campaign is the last chance to save Lighthouse Point.
“Lighthouse Point represents an opportunity for Disney to show that it really is a leader in sustainable development and the protection of our oceans and planet,” said Phoebe Shaw, campaign director for Last Chance for Lighthouse Point.
Education: Vrije Universiteit Brussel (University of Brussels), MA in Mass Communications