Business

Environmentalists call on PM to keep his word to scrap RCCL land lease 

Save the Bays (STB) Chairman Joseph Darville yesterday called on Prime Minister Philip Brave Davis to scrap Royal Caribbean Cruise Line’s (RCCL) plan to develop a Royal Beach Club on a portion of Paradise Island, citing the Progressive Liberal Party’s (PLP) emphasis on environmental  conservation and Davis’ threat to pull the cruise line’s Crown land lease while he was in opposition.

Darville said he and his environmental group hope to see these commitments come to fruition in the form of policy and legislation.

“One such commitment was Mr. Davis’ firm pledge to terminate any agreement that would result in Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines (RCCL) leasing Crown land on Paradise Island,” Darville said.

“STB wholeheartedly supports the prime minister on this matter and we fully trust that he will keep his word.”

Darville said it is view of environmentalists that anything other than a low-density development would threaten the environment on the undeveloped area of Paradise Island.

Toby Smith’s Paradise Island Lighthouse and Beach Club Company Ltd. is fighting RCCL for a strip of Crown land he said was promised to him by the government, but is now part of RCCL’s Crown land lease.

In opposition, Davis said granting Crown land to a foreign entity that was promised to a Bahamian would set a bad precedent.

Davis contended in a statement in March 2020 that the deal with RCCL would “set back Bahamian industries and block Bahamians from the enjoyment of asset use and value in what little is available for ordinary Bahamians”.

“This is grossly unfair to Bahamians and the next PLP government will terminate this agreement,” Davis said.

“There are many compelling reasons to support our position. First and foremost, any project of this type should be owned and operated by Bahamians, fully utilizing Bahamian entrepreneurs, vendors, artists, entertainers, retailers, tour guides, water taxis, etc. Secondly, no non-Bahamian entity should receive preferential consideration over the many Bahamian applicants who have attempted to procure this property. Thirdly, all attempts to purchase this property in the past have been denied for reasons overwhelmingly in the public interest.”

Darville said from an environmental standpoint, the western end of Paradise Island continues to be a “rare haven of natural beauty amid the bustle of Nassau Harbour” where a low-impact development should be placed.

“Shattering this historic, pristine oasis with huge construction works, massive crowds and the enormous volumes of solid waste and water pollution this will generate, is simply unthinkable,” he said.

“The threat of permanent harm to the underground water table, the nearby thriving reef and harbor-facing waterfront properties on New Providence is far too great. In our view, RCCL’s plans for environmental management are nowhere near sufficient given the level of risk such a project represents. Insufficient or improper management just a few miles from the largest population center in The Bahamas could create a serious pollution issue and potentially, even a health crisis.”

Smith’s low-density project is expected to cost $2 million, including the preservation of the lighthouse, while RCCL’s project  could top $100 million and employ 100 during construction and provide 150 permanent jobs to Bahamians.

RCCL has already spent $50 million on land acquisition for the Royal Beach Club, which will include a large swimming pool, cabanas and beach chairs and is designed to be a simple day on the beach for cruise guests.

“The tiny western end of Paradise Island simply cannot become a mega-tourism destination,” Darville said.

“Any further development of the area must be restricted to low-impact, small footprint boutique projects that showcase rather than destroy our country’s unique ecological heritage.

“This would be in keeping with the Davis administration’s stated aims for the future of the tourism industry and would also accord with the perspective of many environmental advocates, STB included.”

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Chester Robards

Chester Robards rejoined The Nassau Guardian in November 2017 as a senior business reporter. He has covered myriad topics and events for The Nassau Guardian. Education: Florida International University, BS in Journalism

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