BNT concerned about North Andros proposal

Bahamas National Trust (BNT) Executive Director Eric Carey said his organization has environmental concerns about proposals for development in North Andros.

“As the national park service of The Bahamas, we have concerns with the development proposals in Andros,” he said in a statement.

“All have the potential to impact five of six national parks on the island. Along with encroachment on protected areas, they pose a significant impact to the environment surrounding them.

“Joulter Cays is a critical habitat for endangered seabirds, such as the Piping Plover, and other native species. It also plays a significant role in the livelihoods of Androsian people whose ecotourism businesses rely on bonefish flats for recreation.

“Marine animals are supported by the coral reefs of North and South Marine Parks to replenish populations vital to sustainable fisheries. Other food sources like land crabs in Crab Replenishment Reserve are at risk, too.”

A 2019 proposal by multibillionaire Dr. Patrick Soon-Shiong has recently become a national concern after it was leaked in the public domain.

The North Andros Green Free Trade Zone, which developers say would be worth more than $200 million, would include a new shipping port, airport, healthcare research facilities and manufacturing facilities for harvested aragonite in Morgan’s Bluff.

The proposal requests 20 initial work permits and promises 10,819 new construction, manufacturing and service jobs.

The Office of the Prime Minister said yesterday that while a draft proposal for a free trade zone on North Andros was submitted, it has not been formally analyzed or reviewed nor has a copy been submitted to the National Economic Council.

Minister of the Environment and Housing Romauld Ferreira, in his contribution to the 2020/2021 budget debate last week, said that aragonite mining is not sustainable in The Bahamas.

The BNT, in its press release, said it supports that position.

But also said it “notes with concern three unofficial and incomplete development proposals in North Andros that have been published in the news and are circulating on social media”.

“BNT has formally communicated its concern to the Bahamas Investment Authority, with copy to the Ministry of Environment and Housing and the Bahamas Environment Science and Technology (BEST) Commission,” the release stated.

“As the defender of national parks, the BNT would like the public to be reminded of the environmental and economic importance of protected areas, [of] which the island of Andros has six. Five protected areas in North Andros are included in the mapping of several proposals, which cover large areas of land and sea, including: Blue Holes National Park, Crab Replenishment Reserve, Joulter Cays National Park and North and South Marine Parks, essential to healthy oceans.”

The statement also read: “Requested copies of the proposals have been submitted by the BNT to the attention of the Bahamas Investment Authority at the Office of The Prime Minister.

“BNT wrote to be involved in an environmental impact assessment (EIA), if plans are considered further. Informed comments can be made on the specifics of these developments once the BNT is able to review the formal project documents and relevant EIAs.”

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