Unfriendly environmental behaviors persist

Last year, we experienced the worst hurricane in recorded history.

Sea surges inundated flood-prone areas as well as areas never before affected by floods on Abaco and Grand Bahama.

Numerous pundits have opined that in our recovery we must build in resilience to the impacts of climate change and sea level rise.

But bad habits die slowly.

In 1997, The Bahamas enacted the Conservation and Protection of the Physical Landscape Act which restricted the indiscriminate cutting of hills and made it mandatory for individuals proposing to cut a hill to first obtain a permit from the director of physical planning.

Similar permits are required to backfill wetlands.

If it was anticipated that the new law would stop the levelling of New Providence hills, much less hills around the country, the reality has been disappointing and troubling.

And the continued construction of residential and commercial enterprises in low lying, flood-prone areas continues unabated.

Clearly Physical Planning and Town Planning never received the memo to conserve hills and wetlands.

At the time the law was enacted, quarry miners were making mince pie of the Blue Hill ridge.

The law did not halt the activity that has been further aggravated by the cutting of hills to facilitate the construction of large warehouses and graveyard parking along Carmichael Road and elsewhere around the island in recent years.

Now, with great fanfare, a ground-breaking ceremony is held for a monster office complex to be constructed in a carved out hole on the southern side of Centreville Hill at Second Terrance Collins Avenue with the prime minister in attendance. This is in marked contrast to the construction of residential and commercial multi-storeyed buildings upon the same hill in the 1970s.

We are meant to celebrate this achievement by a Bahamian-owned financial service/real estate company even while one of the few remaining hills on the island is decimated.

Levelling hills and backfilling wetlands are bad environmental practices.

The government and the Town Planning Authority need to stand up, take note and stop it.

The slow pace of hurricane recovery

An executive from the home insurance sector suggested that all homeowners should be required to carry hurricane insurance like owners of motor vehicles. This, it was suggested, would reduce the overwhelming demand now being placed upon the government to assist Bahamians in restoring their lives following the destruction of Hurricane Dorian.

It seems a simple solution to a very complex problem.

Many Bahamians, including those residents on Abaco and Grand Bahama, report giving up hurricane coverage for their residences as the annual premiums became increasingly prohibitive. Indeed, in many instances as soon as mortgage obligations are satisfied, homeowners drop or reduce hurricane insurance coverage.

Others with home hurricane insurance advise that their policies do not cover their full loss; not even the full cost of repair or reconstruction of residences much less the furniture, appliances, clothing and the other personal effects that made up their lives.

Some say that paying even the insurance deductible is proving a stretch for them in the reduced circumstances they find themselves.

Many no longer have jobs as many of these also were washed away by the storm.

Then there are the hundreds of renters who lost their residences together with virtually everything else they previously owned.

The government recently launched its Small Home Repair Program through the Disaster Reconstruction Authority.

The program will make grants of between $2,500 and $10,000 to residents of damaged and destroyed residences if they are able to establish their ownership of the property in question, a hurdle to be overcome by already distressed residents.

Small wonder that so many declare that they feel abandoned and do not “feel” any of the government relief initiatives reportedly underway.

The hurricane hit six months ago.

The patience of residents desperate for recovery has been exhausted. 

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