Businessman Clyde Adams wants Government to reconsider the location of the proposed Sandals resort from Buccoo/Golden Grove to another site to avoid destruction of the wetlands and to also allow for balanced development of Tobago.
Adams, a former director of the Airports Authority and a former Tobago Regional Health Authority (TRHA) chairman, argued that proposed resort at Buccoo was a wrong choice, even if Sandals Resorts International (SI) was right about its revenue projections.
“…it is going the wrong place. It must not go down in Buccoo Reef and Nylon Pool… if you were to start to build that hotel and global warming happens, and it mash up what you are building, and you can’t do it again, so, you mash up the hotel, you mash up Buccoo Reef and Nylon Pool, you mash up the wetlands, what happens then?
“Think about a next place… if you’re so concerned about Tobago, if you are so mindful of Tobago, then you may consider improving the Northside Road, go quite up to L’Anse Fourmi, build something so that you can allow the island of Tobago to be more well balanced,” he said.
Adams was among scores of residents, including environmentalists, who contributed to a discussion on the impact of a Sandals resort in Tobago at a forum on December 13 at the Scarborough library. The discussion was led by chartered surveyor and activist Afra Raymond who was invited by former head of the Public Service Reginald Dumas, to analyse the implications and intent of a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) signed between Government and Sandals Resorts International in October 2017.
Raymond, in February 27 this year, requested the MOU through the Freedom of Information Act. He was not provided with the information and he took the State to court to get it. On November 28, one day before his case was to be heard in court, he was given the MOU.
Another environmentalist, Margaret Hinkson, speaking at the forum, also called for attention to be paid to the proposed location of the resort as well as the timing of the project, as she urged that care be taken as regards environmental scrutiny.
“So that if the EMA (Environmental Management Agency) and through the local agency here, the Department of Environment… if they do their job properly and like professionals and are not subjected to political pressure, which is what we are fearing, they will find that they have to give equal weight or even more emphasis and require an environmental impact analysis (in addition to a Certificate of Environmental Clearance),” she said.
Referring to a CEC obtained by Angostura in 2003, also for a resort project on 15 acres and which lapsed in 2006, Hinkson advised that this should serve for a “little handbrakes pulled up because if the EIA is properly done and we should demand it, this (Sandals resort) cannot go on in the Buccoo Reef Marine Park.
“It simply cannot meet the standards.” The MOU states that Government undertakes to expedite all development approvals, which environmentalists have argued include environmental assessment for construction of two hotels and a golf course within the area designated as the Buccoo Reef Marine Park and the Ramsar-designated Bon Accord Lagoon.
They have noted restrictions to activities within Ramsar-designated sites including taking or removing any mangrove and dredging or interfering with the sea bed, and questioned how the mega construction planned by Sandals complies with the protected status of the Buccoo Reef Marine Park.
In his contribution, environmentalist Ian Wright says any destruction of the natural habitat of Tobago, which he said was certain to happen with construction of the resort, would destroy a huge part of the island’s natural environment.
“It’s an absolute fact that if this (Sandals resort) goes ahead, you would destroy your reef. If you lose your reef, you would destroy all protection that there is. So, the whole southwest is going to be threatened by this.
“Starting to look at whether it’s going to cost $3 billion or how much that the country is getting into debt to build it… you’ve got to consider the loss and the massive environmental loss, not just to Tobago but this is a global loss,” he said.
Environment Secretary Kwesi Des Vignes, speaking at the post Executive Council media briefing two weeks ago, said he appreciated the concerns of environmentalists and stakeholders regarding potential impact of the Sandals resort, but that “it would be irresponsible to become alarmist in how we approach things.”
Des Vignes argued that the location of the resort “isn’t completely in the Bon Accord lagoon and at Ramsar locations,” and defended the Environmental Management Agency (EMA), saying that it was very particular on process and that he expects it to stick to the law.
He said he expected that public consultations on the proposed project, when scheduled, to be very clear, that the EMA would stick to the law and that the Government in its pursuit of the project, would stick to the law as well.