I get emotional about certain things. One of them is the destruction of the few relatively untouched areas of our planet, in the name of unsustainable “development.” Despite the recent warnings that the damage we human beings have already done is beyond repair, in terms of climate change, some among us relentlessly move onwards in pursuit of profit and perhaps economic domination. The UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, in a leaked draft report, noted a few days ago: “Without additional mitigation, and even with adaptation, warming by the end of the 21st century will lead to high to very high risk of severe, widespread, and irreversible impacts globally.” But hey, they are probably exaggerating, say our “investors,” sweeping all before them. Let’s build another coal plant.
Here’s a little list I started – beginning with what is closest to our home, and one would hope, dearest to our hearts. You will notice a common thread in this list of destruction/planned destruction, I am sure.
- Portland Bight Protected Area/Goat Islands, Jamaica: Still a closely guarded secret, the Goat Islands area is the target of China Harbour Engineering Company (CHEC), with whom the Jamaican Government recently signed a mysterious agreement. CHEC intends to build a transshipment port that will accommodate the mega-ships that are designed to pass through the expanded Panama Canal. “The Portland Bight Protected Area, including the Goat Islands and the adjacent areas, were protected under Jamaican law by the current Administration for good, scientific reasons and after considerable study,” says Diana McCaulay of the Jamaica Environment Trust (JET), which is spearheading the campaign to save Goat Islands. Why the lack of transparency? What is really happening? For more information and to sign the petition, visit savegoatislands.org and the JET website and Facebook page.
- The Highway 2000 (Mt Rosser leg of North-South link) plus 1,200 acres: Built by CHEC and opened with great fanfare, ironically, just before Independence Day – with a huge Chinese banner and Jamaican women dressed in Chinese costume. Minister of Transport and Works Omar Davies told journalists that in addition to the toll to be collected by the Chinese for the next fifty years, the Jamaican Government also agreed to give the company 1,200 acres – adding they have not decided “which 1,200 acres they want.” Take your pick! What if the land is native forest? What if it is an area of particular interest re: biodiversity? I understand the land will be “along the highway” somewhere. What will CHEC do with this land? Will they build a factory, a coal plant and if so, will they have to go through proper environmental approvals?
Baha Mar Resort, New Providence Island, Bahamas: Backed by China’s state-run Export-Import Bank of China and constructed by the China State Construction Engineering Corp., the huge 2,900-room Baha Mar Resort broke ground at Nassau’s Cable Beach in February 2011 with plans for four new hotels plus what had previously been the 694-room Sheraton Nassau Beach Hotel as well as a casino, a golf course and a convention center. It is trying hard to promote environmental sustainability and energy efficiency, although there have been major issues regarding its air-conditioning systems. It is scheduled to open in late spring 2015 and has provided employment for thousands of Chinese workers.
- Bimini, Bahamas: These three small, laid-back islands, famous for their pristine marine environment and eco-tourism, are now under threat from the Genting Group, a Malaysian consortium, which wants to build a huge pier with mega-ferries bringing many thousands of tourists daily from Miami to the smallest (nine-square-mile) island, where it has already built a casino and resort. Marine biologists call the plans “an ecological and socioeconomic disaster.” (There is a world-famous shark research lab there). Please watch this beautiful short video from Bimini on the importance of mangroves: http://www.pinterest.com/pin/314266880221474431/ Source: Telegraph UK, Save The Bays
- A US$1 billion mega resort in Antigua, Barbuda and surrounding small islands (including Guiana Island) is to be built by the Yida International Investment Group. The new government signed an agreement with the Chinese the day after it was elected in June. Slated to be 50 per cent larger than the above-mentioned Baha Mar resort, construction on the “Singulari” scheme is slated to begin in 2015 on 900 acres of land in the north of Antigua and 700 acres of tiny islands (much of it previously owned by former “investor” Alan Stanford). It will include several luxury hotels, hundreds of private homes, a school, hospital, marinas, golf courses, an entertainment district, horse racing track and the Caribbean’s biggest casino. Little Antigua is about to turn into a mega construction site. I wonder how its lovely small resorts feel? Source: Various websites
- Our neighbors in Guyana are simply suffering from the depredations of a Chinese company, part of a group of 11 companies operating in Guyana. They are all part of the China Forest Industry Group. These companies have seven logging concessions in Guyana, covering a total area of 960,000 hectares (about 4.5% of the area of the country). The company has also ignored, on three separate occasions, a cease order for sand mining and is building a road illegally. The Kaiteur News has posted devastating videos of massive deforestation, taking place apparently without parliamentary approval. Source: REDD-monitor.org, Kaiteur News and Mark Jacobs blog.
- And further afield… The planned Nicaragua Canal will cut a swathe right across the country and work is supposed to start this year. If completed, it is said to be the largest engineering project in history and will be much larger than, and a rival to the Panama Canal. According to AP, residents of the Brito region in south-west Nicaragua are alarmed and feel intimidated by groups of Chinese and Nicaraguans, accompanied by police and soldiers conducting a “census” to see if they can buy their land to build the canal. The Nicaraguan government has already granted the previously little-known HKND Group headed by Wang Jing of China rights to the canal, ports, highways and rights of way stretching across the country from The Brito River on the Pacific to Bluefields Bay on the Atlantic. Ometepe Island, designated a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve in 2010, is directly in the path of the proposed canal. It includes Lake Cocibolca, the biggest fresh water reservoir in the country; developers would have to dynamite their way through it. It also includes a “restless” volcano, unique elfin forest and is a special place for migratory birds heading to North America. Activities include agriculture, fishing and community-based eco-tourism. It is just beautiful.
That’s all for now. I could go on, but this list is long enough already, don’t you think?