Be brave on environmental laws

Dear Editor,

Thank you for giving me space to express my concerns about a situation that is unfolding that is deeply disturbing. I have heard numerous rumours since the new administration has taken over that the 2019 Environmental Planning and Protection Act and the 2020 Biological Resources and Traditional Knowledge Protection and Sustainable Use Act will be repealed. For decades, The Bahamas has been pillaged by certain foreign and local entities and businessmen because we lacked the legislative framework to properly protect and manage our natural resources. For decades, technical experts within and outside the government have called for the members of Parliament and senators to fill these enormous holes in our laws. It was a great sense of relief and pride for me, as a person who has worked in the environmental sector for more than 25 years, when these laws were finally enacted.

The draft National Development Plan (which, by the way, has yet to be approved by any administration) recognized the critical role of the environment as a pillar of the development of this country. Ensuring the sustainability of the Bahamian environment requires a number of steps:

Policy – National Environmental Policy approved in 2005. 

Legislation – The aforementioned legislation enacted in 2019 and 2020; more is needed for issues like climate change.

Implementation of policy and legislation – It has started with the creation of the Department of Environmental Planning and Protection (DEPP).

Dedicated funding – It is just beginning, but much more is needed, including earmarking of the existing Environmental Levy.

To repeal these critical pieces of legislation would set us back decades. The 2020 Biological Resources Act puts The Bahamas on the world stage as a beacon of progress. We are only the second country in the world to enact such legislation. We will be a model for other countries. To repeal that act says to the world that we do not view ourselves as capable of being a beacon and that we are not up to the task. So, rather than being considered small and mighty, we would be just small and weak.

Many who have called for repeal of the acts complain of long delays in reviews and approvals. In 2005, The Bahamas went through a National Capacity Self-Assessment (NCSA). That assessment indicated that any department formed to manage the environment across an archipelago of 13 major islands and hundreds of cays would need a minimum of 80 full-time staff members. Today, DEPP has about six technical staff members. Six people to do the work of 80.

Think about that. Prime Minister Davis, if you and your government truly have the country’s best interest at heart, I implore you to keep these acts in place and give DEPP the staff it needs to be efficient. A fully staffed Environmental Department is vital to implementing these acts as they should be. Please do not allow yourself to be bullied by people who do not care about the environment, by people who do not care about the future of this country and its sustainability, or by people who cannot see beyond their own self-interest. Be the leader we need who does what is right for the country and its people rather than what is easy. I would love for these rumors to be proved false and my concerns to be unwarranted. I would love for the government to demonstrate it is working to do everything in its power to protect and sustainably manage the natural resources for the people of The Bahamas. Repealing or gutting this legislation is not the path.

Is this a new day or back to the old ways?

I encourage you to be brave enough for this moment.

I encourage you to be braver than your predecessors.

I encourage you to summon the courage, ingenuity and determination to help this country succeed in protecting and managing its natural resources. 

– Stacey Moultrie,
environmental planner

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