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Environmentalists urge new environment minister to stop Disney project

Environmentalists are pleading with the new Minister of the Environment and Natural Resources Vaughn Miller to put a stop to Disney Cruise Line’s (DCL) plans to develop Lighthouse Point in South Eleuthera.

Executive Director of ReEarth Sam Duncombe sent a letter to Miller explaining that her group is “eager for a fresh start” with him, requesting a formal meeting with the minister.

“We welcome the opportunity to work with you to address challenges in our nation and work together on a way forward,” Duncombe said in her letter.

“We write to you today, on behalf of the Stop Disney: Last Chance for Lighthouse Point campaign, to call attention to our September 9, 2021 statement that asks ‘the next government of The Bahamas, to be elected on September 16th, to undertake a formal reconsideration of the proposed Disney project at Lighthouse Point, including requiring DCL to supplement its EIA (environmental impact assessment) with additional analyses and consultations’.

“The statement outlines serious flaws in the environmental review process conducted by the previous administration.”

Duncombe pointed to now Prime Minister Philip Brave Davis’ criticism of a lack of transparency surrounding the signing of the heads of agreement with Disney while he was in opposition. She also pointed to the now Minister of Education Glenys Hanna-Martin’s critique of the project.

Hanna-Martin said while in opposition: “The administration has failed miserably to negotiate a fair and equitable arrangement for the Bahamian people or to ensure that opportunities are maximized for the Bahamian people.”

Duncombe said in her letter that she hopes under Miller’s leadership the public’s feelings on Disney’s project will be taken into consideration and the environment will be protected.

“Both Disney and the previous government refused to make public the full data on the economics of the deal,” Duncombe said.

“A study conducted by Oxford Economics purportedly proves that the project will benefit the local and national economy. Yet Disney still has not released the full document. Last spring, our campaign hosted extended public consultations on the project’s environmental impact assessment. The first of these consultations was focused on the economic claims associated with the project. Disney refused our invitation to attend. The content of these meetings were reflected in our extensive written comments on the EIA. Unfortunately, our comments were dismissed by DCL’s EIA consultants.

“Lighthouse Point is an important first test of the new government’s resolve to address the most existential environmental challenges facing our country, most importantly climate change and the protection of our marine resources. It is ironic that Disney is now asking the new government for permission to construct a cruise ship port at Lighthouse Point, which sits at the heart of 18,000 acres of seas around Lighthouse Point, officially gazetted as a marine protected area in July 2021.

“We hope that your ministry will pause the rush to grant environmental approvals for this project and require Disney to give serious consideration to a better, more equitable alternative, including a Disney land and sea legacy park.”

Duncombe said local environmentalists remain ready to help Disney find a more appropriate site for a new cruise port.

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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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