In the Caribbean, we are small. Although in Jamaica we tend to think of ourselves as a “larger” island, in the scheme of things only Cuba and Hispaniola can claim to be quite sizeable.
And yet, as they say, “small is beautiful.” And one place that fits that description perfectly is Coral Cove in Grenada. It is one of those quiet corners of a small island, where the sea brushes the sand and old, weather-beaten trees lean across a narrow beach. Brown Pelicans patrol and dive in the waters. It is one of those lovely spots where you can easily while away a few hours, daydreaming.
And if you are lucky, an endangered Hawksbill Turtle (all our Caribbean turtles are listed as endangered, by the way) will emerge from the sea to dig her nest on the beach. It is a laborious task that is equally wonderful for its slow and stately progression.
These days in the Caribbean, however, when developers see a stretch of unspoilt sand and clear, transparent waters, they see tourism dollars. There is still money to be made, squeezed out of our Paradise. It can’t be left alone. Such, sadly, is the case with Coral Cove. One such developer intends to plant a five-storey block (80 rooms) onto this five-acre site. There would be a beach restaurant, a gym, a “kid’s club.” Without doubt, this will mean the destruction of all the native trees on and around the beach, and irreversible damage to the environment, through excavation, rubble, and run-off of construction materials into the sea.
The developer applied for this plan on January 6, 2022, and as of May 17, the Planning and Development Authority stated that it was still reviewing it. Objections had already been made by several groups to the development. Now, all these concerns are set out in much more detail on the Coral Cove website here.
For decades this space was known as Coral Cove Cottages, in the primarily residential, quiet, even quaint area of L’Anse Aux Épines (yes, I am a little familiar with this community myself). There is a small group of five cabins some distance from the shoreline. It has stayed just the same.
The design put forward by the Chinese developers is already in violation of several planning and building codes in order to make such a development even viable, according to the Coral Cove Group and We The People Grenada, who are campaigning against it. Parts of the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) of 2019 read more like advice to the developer, suggesting the beach could be augmented by imported sand and that the building would be financially unviable if it was any smaller!
The point is, the site is simply not big enough. If there is any development at all, it should be two storeys only, preserving all the native vegetation; perhaps, campaigners are suggesting, with a small lodge focused on marine conservation. Eco-tourism would make such sense for a small place like this; and there is a growing market for it in the Caribbean, although regional tourism officials (including Jamaica’s) still remain fixated on the mass market, “sun, sea and sand” model. They like big numbers.
Otherwise, this pristine environment will be turned upside down. It would be gone, along with all the wildlife, marine and otherwise.
Back to reality. Human activities at the planned hotel would prevent nesting for the Hawksbill Turtle permanently, disturb the eggs, and confuse hatchlings with lights from the buildings. The mature meadows of seagrass on which the turtles feed (including Green Turtles) would be damaged. The coral reef, habitat for so many species, would be harmed by the intensity of human activities and pollution. Coral Cove is home to the green sea urchin, the white spotted eagle ray and other ray species (all rays are endangered) and hermit crabs, among many others.
And there are the birds. A pair of Osprey nests there every year, feeding around the reef. Sea birds and shorebirds feed and nest along the beach, in the rocks and vegetation, including herons, egrets, waders, gulls, frigate birds, pelicans. Inland, barn owls, hawks, and doves live in the trees that fringe the beach. There are small land mammals such as the manitou, bats, iguanas.
Now. The Grenadian Government has a tourism slogan, “Pure Grenada.” The delicious videos on the website conjure up visions of clean, clear waterfalls, crystal waters.
This and other planned tourism developments would make this slogan something of a joke. This development would breach many local laws and even international agreements it has signed – including the UN SPAW Protocol for Specially Protected Areas and Wildlife and local laws protecting turtles and the marine environment.
In 2020, BirdsCaribbean expressed deep concern about three larger tourism developments planned for Grenada – including another major turtle nesting site at Levera. This is the island’s only Ramsar Wetland of International Importance and a Caribbean Birding Trail site – described as “raped and mutilated by so-called investors” by one local blogger. There is also the Mt. Hartman project – almost the last remaining sanctuary for the highly endangered Grenada Dove – which the lobby group Grenada Land Actors is concerned with. There is a case in court.
Does any of this fit in with the “pure” and pristine image the tourism marketers want to convey? Is this mere “bluewashing”? Indeed, Grenada has embraced the “Blue Economy” (with help from the World Bank) and receives financial and technical support from the Global Environment Facility (GEF) as well as funding from the European Union for the Biodiversity Support Programme for Coastal Environments.
And, we understand, the travesty at Coral Cove is being funded by the Citizenship by Investment (CBI) programme that a few Eastern Caribbean islands have established; it’s a somewhat dubious scheme that is quite a lure for wealthy white-collar criminals from various countries, who can purchase “golden” passports to those islands – very handy for a quick getaway. I wrote about Caribbean CBI programmes here for Global Voices in 2020. It seems that perhaps their days are numbered, as both the European Union and the United States are now having considerable doubts about these schemes. So this development might well turn into a white elephant.
So, what next? Concerned citizens are being encouraged to email their objections to the island’s Planning and Development Authority. The Coral Cove Group reminds us:
The PDA should remember that part of its statutory duty under the Physical Planning and Development Control Act No 23, 2016 is to “protect the natural and cultural heritage.”
A judicial review is under way. As with many of these projects, transparency is in short supply. The developers’ lawyers don’t seem to be very available.
If you would like to keep abreast of happenings regarding Coral Cove, you can visit the website, and email firstname.lastname@example.org.
My final thought is: Why (and this is happening right across the region) do citizens have to resort to petitions, protests, and legal action to defend their own increasingly fragile islands, home to highly endangered species that are supposed to be legally protected? Isn’t it sad.
Oh, and one more thought: Why do our political leaders make glowing speeches about biodiversity, Blue Economy, and the painful impacts of climate change (that we are already feeling) in international fora – and then return to continue their harmful policies that are threatening their own island’s environment and all who live in it? Isn’t it sad.
Because – this is true not only of small, beautiful Coral Cove but many other places across the region of whatever size – we can rest assured that this complete disregard and contempt for one’s own country’s precious ecosystems and human quality of life will result in disaster. All for the tourism dollar. All for grants from overseas. It must be done – it’s “development.” Progress!
However, as Coral Cove Group puts it:
We have to stop this monstrous despoliation of Grenada’s natural assets. It is aimed solely at satisfying the avaricious appetites for money of powerful citizens and their mates. It reveals a cynical disregard for the country and the interests of its citizens.