FIVE: CASE STUDIES OF NGO AND COMMUNITY RESISTANCE This section assesses the impact of NGOs and small community stakeholder/self-management groups on environmentally detrimental tourist development initiatives. It reviews five case histories: the Jolly Harbour Project, the Marina Bay Project, and the Coconut Hall Project on Antigua, and sand mining and the "K" Club on Barbuda. These cases clearly illustrate how NGO effectiveness in promoting coastal resource stability can be thwarted by a pro- growth tourism policy aggressively promoted by a powerful government and ecologically insensitive private developers. Jolly Harbour In 1988, the German owner of the 500-room Jolly Beach Hotel (now Club Antigua) began work on the Jolly Harbour project, a marina/condominium project that was initially slated to add 1,500-2,000 rooms to the Antigua tourist plant. It has since been cut back because of slow sales and financial difficulties. Actual construction was undertaken by Devcon International of Florida and its local subsidiary, Antigua Masonry Products, a company in which Prime Minister Lester Bird has had a financial interest. Cabinet approved the sale of 53 acres of land for the project, most of it salt pond and mangrove swamp, for a very nominal sum of money. Later the GOAB made some other land available to the project. The project began (l989) with the bulldozing of all the mangroves and all the shoreline vegetation (coconut trees, sea grapes etc.) on Mosquito cove, dredging the salt pond, and cutting a channel into Mosquito Cove. The dredge material was used to fill in certain areas of the salt pond/mangrove swamp. In essence the project destroyed the Jolly Hill salt pond/mangrove swamp, parts of adjacent Yorks salt pond, and it has virtually destroyed Mosquito Cove. The environmental impacts of the bulldozing, dredging and filling operations are noted in de Albuquerque (1991). In August 1988, 408 members of the community of Bolans, which adjoins Jolly Hill and Jolly Beach, signed a petition protesting the sale of the 53 acres of Jolly Hill salt pond to the then German owner of Jolly Beach Hotel. The petition was presented by a delegation of residents to Prime Minister V.C. Bird, and demanded the cessation of "wanton distribution" of "prime and strategic lands" to "foreign adventurers". GOAB defended its action by calling the salt pond/mangrove swamp "useless land" and emphasized the beneficial economic impact of the project. Many residents of Bolans protested the lack of consultation and pointed out that the 500-room Jolly Beach Hotel had not had much of a positive economic impact on their community (see de Albuquerque, 1991). Some members of HAS, THE OUTLET newspaper, and many Antiguans complained loudly about the wanton destruction of beaches and salt ponds/mangroves. Articles appeared in the print media on the value of mangrove swamps. However, when ground breaking for the project commenced in 1989, the furor had subsided. Currently the marina has been completed, a commercial center built, and several phases of condominiums have been constructed and are currently being marketed, primarily to overseas visitors. With the exception of providing some low wage jobs to people in Bolans and nearby Jennings, the self-contained project will have relatively small positive economic impact on these two communities. The Marina Bay Project Planning for this project, a joint venture between the St. John's Development Corporation and Italian investors, began in 1986. Originally the project was planned for 1842 rooms and together with a marina was to have encompassed 350 acres. It was scaled down because of legal (Government's claim to ownership of some of the land is in dispute) and financial problems. Final plans called for the completion of 125 luxury condominiums, a restaurant, marina and shopping complex. To date, only the first phase of the condominium project (28 units) has been completed and sales have been slow. The marina is not fully operational. To build the project, the northern end of McKinnon's salt pond/mangrove swamp had to be dredged and filled, and a channel had to be cut between the salt pond and the northern end of Runaway Bay. This channel effectively cut off shoreline access between Runaway Bay and Dickenson Bay. The project also blocked off public access to Corbinson Point, a historic site (see de Albuquerque , 1991). The public outcry over the project was even more vocal than the outcry over Jolly Hill and handbills and posters appeared demanding "Save McKinnon's Swamp". Because the project was to affect two of the most popular beaches in Antigua, Runaway and Dickenson Bay, GOAB bowed to pressure and in 1987 commissioned an EIA. The EIA report noted some major problems with the project including the possible outflow of large amounts of fresh water "bearing suspended sediments and other pollutants" (Jackson et. al., 1987). It concluded that the short-term economic benefits of the project should be weighed against the long-term adverse effects on Runaway and Dickenson Bays and recommended a series of strategies to mitigate the environmental impacts. Like many such exercises, the EIA was immediately shelved, and none of the recommendations was implemented. In June 1989, hundreds of thousands of dead fish appeared along a three mile area on the western side of McKinnon's pond. This ecological tragedy, occurring as it did a few days before Fisherman's Week, received considerable coverage in the media. Several qualified observers, including a fisheries officer, linked the massive fish kill to the Marina Bay development, which had impeded periodic natural flushing of the pond, and to raw sewage being pumped into the pond from nearby hotels. The fish kill became a very concrete example for the recently formed EAG to illustrate to Antiguans how GOAB's development policies were effecting the environment. At least two Senators were pushed to making statements in support of the environment, and several Government officials toured the area, but nothing concrete resulted. Another fish kill occurred at McKinnon's in July of 1990. It was attributed to similar causes: partially treated hotel sewage, high summer temperatures, and oxygen deprivation (CEP, 1991:6). Coconut Hall In St. Peters parish (Antigua) overlooking Guiana Bay and Crump Island stands Coconut Hall, formerly the site of an old plantation. The shoreline is rich and diverse and the area is still undeveloped. In 1992 over 80 acres of hillside and mangroves were bulldozed to make way for a major tourism project involving a hotel, condominiums, a golf course, marina, and shopping mall. The project developers, with Cabinet approval, submitted only a two-page plan to the DCA. The bulldozers started operating soon after receipt of preliminary approval for the excavation/land clearance work from DCA. Few people in Antigua, and especially in the nearby communities of Seatons and Pares Village, had any advanced warning of the project. News of the destruction of the mangroves and the hillsides spread rapidly. The EAG rallied support throughout Antigua and people came out in droves to see the damage, and some even to stop the bulldozers, but they were deterred by the police who had somehow got wind of the impending action. The stand-off at Coconut Hall between developers and environmentalists was publicized widely in the local media, and was even covered in the regional and international press. Like many other major projects in A/B, decisions regarding the proposed Coconut Hall development were made in secret and at Cabinet level. The appropriate agencies such as the DCA, the Port Authority, the CBH, the HCEC were by-passed or their recommendations ignored. When EAG members and other concerned Antiguans pointed out that the developers were in clear violation of a number of statutes, Tyrone Peters, then Acting Town and Country Planner at the DCA, issued a stop work order. Mr. Peters, an extremely competent professional, had complained in private for many years that his hands were tied and that the DCA had been rendered ineffective since all important development decisions were made by Cabinet and the various agencies were simply instructed to cooperate fully with developers. Caught off guard by the extent of opposition to the Coconut Hall project, the Government promised that it would commission an Environmental and Social Impact Assessment and retained Ivor Jackson and Associates to conduct the study. As of this writing, no work on the Assessment has yet been done. After the furor over Coconut Hall died down, Mr. Peters was quietly fired by his superiors in the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries, Lands and Housing. He has since been replaced by another well-trained, perhaps more compliant, planner. Sand Mining in Barbuda During the past two decades, tourist development and residential construction in the Caribbean has spawned a sustained demand for domestic and imported building aggregate. In the OECS countries, between 1982-1990, sand use in construction increased an average of 10 percent per year. Although sand sources include off-shore dredging, dry riverbed mining and crushed pumice, the sand of choice is beach/dune sand. According to Cambers (1994:2), "Most imported sand comes from the dunes of Barbuda, which pays the long-term price of coastal degradation." In 1975/76 sand mining operations began at Palmetto Point, a unique ecological area in the South West of Barbuda, noted for its sand dunes and Palmetto forests. Originally the GOAB entered into an agreement with Red Jacket Mines, an American company, to mine sand from the dunes at Palmetto Point. Since then ownership of the company has changed hands several times and currently the contract to mine sand in Barbuda is held by SandCo, a company whose main principal is Prime Minister Lester Bird. Two other Ministers, Robin Yearwood and Hugh Marshall, are also affiliated with Sandco. For nearly 18 years barges loaded with sand have left Barbuda, almost daily, for Antigua, the Virgin Islands, Martinique, Guadeloupe, St. Maarten and elsewhere in the region. Barbudan sand has supported the tourism related construction boom that has/is occurring on these islands. Coram (1993) reports that the GOAB receives a royalty of US $.79 for every cubic yard of sand, which is then sold in Antigua for US$ 5.55 (actually the current price of sand is much higher). Under the original agreement the Barbuda Council was to have received royalties from the sand mining operation but was unable to collect any monies from Government forcing it to eventually file suit against SandCo and the GOAB. Although the Council has had several decisions go against it, a High Court Judge in Antigua issued a temporary injunction against further sand mining in 1992 because it was determined that sand mining had contaminated the islands groundwater supply. In 1993, the Court sentenced Agriculture Minister Hilroy Humphries and SandCO officials Knackbill Nedd and Reuben Wolf to a month in prison for continuing the sand mining operation in defiance of the Court Order. However, they were pardoned by the Governor General on a petition from Government. At the height of the sand mining operation it was estimated that at least 20,000 tons of sand were being mined a month. The resultant hole that has been created by this operation is very large and over 7 meters deep. The water table is now just a few feet below the surface and the water no longer meets acceptable potable standards. There is also some indication that Barbuda's major freshwater aquifers are being contaminated by salt water intrusion as a result of the sand mining (the subject of the Court decision). An EAG team visiting Palmetto Point reported that when it rains a shallow lake several acres in size is created, thus increasing the chance of salt water intrusion. The team decried the systematic destruction of the dunes and the wholesale clearance of the Palmetto forests, and associated stands of Sea Grapes and Mangroves. Clearance of the dunes and forests has also had a very adverse impact on wildlife in the area. The sand mining operation has also caused considerable beach erosion in the area around the Point. At the abandoned Dulcina Hotel, several cottages have been seriously undermined by the sea and are on the verge of collapsing. The CEP (1991) noted that the removal of sand in large quantities would "ultimately cause the collapse of the undersea topography in other areas." Destruction of the dunes also exposes the island and Codrington village to the full wrath of a hurricane. While the dunes are currently silent there is no telling when the sand mining operation will start up again. Even the Barbuda Council, which long complained about the greed of the Bird regime and the adverse environmental effects of sand mining, is considering starting a mining operation of its own. In the hiatus, local observers suggest that there has been an increase in illegal mining particularly on beaches in Antigua. The "K" Club In 1988 Italian industrialist, Aldo Pinto, who is married to fashion designer, Mariucca Mandelli of "Krizia" fame, obtained a lease from Cabinet to nearly 200 acres of land in Barbuda near Spanish Wells Point. This was the same land that the GOAB had previously leased to a French Canadian called Cloutier. Using some of the same Italian workers who had built Heritage Quay and the Royal Antiguan, Pinto commenced construction of a luxury resort with golf course. The resort was to consist of an 80 room hotel with a second phase devoted to building villas to be sold to rich Europeans. To be able to build the golf course, the Italian contractors had to drain and fill a salt pond and clear a large stretch of mangroves. They also erected a fence around part of the property thereby blocking off the old coast road. All of this was done without the approval of the Barbuda Council, and when the Council determined that the Italians had fenced off more land than they had been granted in the lease, they had the fence torn down. The Italians took Council to Court and won. Council had to put the fence back up and the road had to be moved east away from the coast. Impressed by the US$1,000 day resort lavishly decorated by Mandelli (only a few units have been completed), Cabinet has leased a further 250 acres near Palmetto Point to Pinto and a group of other Italian investors. If stories of all the leases of Barbudan land by Cabinet are correct, all without the approval of the Barbuda Council, the island is poised for a major tourism development boom, which in no way can be supported by the current labor force in Barbuda. Meanwhile the golf course is seriously depleting Barbuda's freshwater supply. Putting a golf course on a dry island like Barbuda is irresponsible and a testament to the Government's insensitivity to the wishes of Barbudans. This disregard was also evident when Government, in collaboration with an American speculator named Strickland, attempted to use Barbuda as a way station to quarantine llamas. Lessons These five case studies emphasize the depth of A/B's coastal problems. First, they illustrate GOAB's persistent preference for short-run economic benefits over long-run environmental and sustainability concerns. They also emphasize (1) the aggressive nature of GOAB's pro-tourist policy, and (2) GOAB's support for relatively large-scale "transformational" developments that tend to cause irreversible alterations along the delicate coastal regions of the twin-island state. Second, the cases demonstrate the thin top-down structure of A/B decision-making. Because of the habitual practice of Cabinet either overriding or ignoring the input of those agencies charged with conservation and mitigation, especially in the consideration of large-scale developments, it is clear that long-run environmental concerns have had negligible influence on economic policy up to the present. Without any operative internal controls, the current decision-making process suggests coastline regions will continue to deteriorate. Thirdly, both Antiguan and Barbudan cases illustrate the pervasive power of the Antigua-based GOAB apparatus. They show that appropriate environmental legislation without enforcement--a long-standing historical pattern in the islands--and popular awareness without decision-making or statutory autonomy are no match for a government dedicated to economic over environmental priorities and short-term personal enrichment and political survival. Finally, except for occasional judicial intervention, the Antigua-Barbuda cases all illustrate the inability of NGOs and other environmental forces without statutory authority to meaningfully reverse current policy. Such groups simply have not achieved the requisite threshold of environmental consciousness inside the political directorate to mandate change. To be effective in the future, NGOs and other environmental interests must on the one hand extend even greater efforts to mobilize the media and the citizenry. On the other hand, new national environmental directions must be sought (land trusts, debt-equity swaps) and more innovative ways must be found to directly influence the Prime Minister and Cabinet concerning the continuing loss of the islands' natural, cultural and economic patrimony for future generations.
Converted from gopher on 8/6/1999