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Columns : Who is in control? - Joseph Darville Last Updated: Feb 6, 2017 - 2:32:04 PM


Plea to Cease & Desist the Rape, Pillage & Wanton Destruction of Our Patrimony Heritage of Land & Sea
By Joseph Darville
May 23, 2013 - 4:26:11 PM

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We, this country, this land, this Commonwealth of the Bahamas, are the enviable prize of the world, and the prey of the world’s largest and most economically vicious predators. A piece of our sacred heritage is the closest some of them will ever come to heaven on earth.  We are rapidly becoming the spoils of a quiet (too quiet) and subtle (much too subtle) bargaining and bartering of our heritage patrimony of land, sea, sand, coastlines and sea beds. This rabid and rapid dispossession has taken place right under our eyes which have been half closed, and at times fully shut.

“For most of history, man has had to fight nature to survive; in this century he is beginning to realize that, in order to survive, he must protect it.” Jacques-Yves Cousteau.

I come this morning to bring a message on behalf of the Coalition to Save the Bays. Originally,  designated as Coalition to Save Clifton Bay, but due to very early success of the Coalition, and in light of the ground swell, not only by public support, but more importantly the cries of other similar entities, reaching out to partner with us, the name quickly evolved.

When I remember what we had to endure to get people to care about basic human rights some thirty-five years ago, I am pleasantly amazed. Now in just a few months, we have people, groups and entities coming out of the woodwork.  They are providing us with photos of damaged and dead reefs, of sea saturated with oil, of smoke stacks spewing poisonous smoke into the atmosphere, of damaged and polluted bays, sacred places up for sale, or already sold. They are now becoming environmentally conscious and savvy, and willing to meld and merge  their concerns with ours to speak with one powerful voice. Our mutual objective is the implementation of environmental protection laws and regulations which will guarantee the responsible and accountable use of what is ours by right.

Thus the Coalition to Save Clifton Bay, quickly morphed into Save the Bays, to include all these entities in a national advocacy and lobbying body.  (A number of them will be listed at the end of this presentation).

Our mission, then, is very simple, it is integrity based and passionately national. We are simply about saving and protecting this gem of an archipelago, which is sacred to us, a God-given gift, to be passed on to many, many future generations, beginning with your children and my children and grandchildren and theirs in perpetuity. I come this morning begging, pleading for your assistance to aid us in this mission, causes to which my words are addressed.

This archaeological  jewel on the face of Mother Earth is entrusted to us by and for future generations, and as stewards thereof, they would expect us to diligently care for it.  They would wish not that we sell it willy-nilly  to the highest bidder, or to the individual or entity with the deepest pockets, who may come and persuade someone in the nation, who may have occasional responsibility for safeguarding our heritage. These lands, seas, sea-beds, seacoast, sands, blue holes, caves, cliffs, bays, lagoons, sounds and, yes, whatever is in, on or beneath them, including oil or natural gas, belongs temporarily to us, simply as stewards thereof, and held in trust by whatever government is in power.

Whatever  government may be in control, it does not possess the arbitrary power to sell, give away, or dispose in any manner what is ours by birthright. All of these aspects, comprising our Commonwealth, are, as the name states, “common-wealth.”  And no one, Prime Minister, Minister, or any other, has any right to dispossess us of it without our approval.   Checking the legislation which governs crown land, ‘vested in Her Majesty or the Governor on behalf of Her Majesty as the property of the Crown, for the benefit of the said Islands,’ it states unequivocally that it can only be utilized for the direct benefit of the citizens of the Commonwealth of the Bahamas. (CONVEYANCE AND LAW OF PROPERTY. CH. 138: PART XI DISPOSITION OF CROWN LANDS, ARTICLE 54. Under the present government, the Prime Minister is the custodian of this heritage for “we the people.”

Presently, unfortunately, the citizens of this country exercise no control or even have knowledge of the dispossessing of their heritage patrimony. Consequently, it is only after the fact that, and sometimes only accidentally becoming aware  something is happening next door, or out to sea, that we  find out we have been bought out. This, which has happened in the past and continues now, cannot, and will not be tolerated in the future. This reprehensible, illegal and secretive divestment of our common wealth, without any input from us must cease and desist immediately.  Whether it be an acre of crown land given to someone, or hundreds of thousands of acres of land, on any particular island being given away to a foreign entity, for whatever purpose, must not and should not be done without my approval, your approval and the approval, particularly of the inhabitants of said island or cay.

  Our islands constitute some seventy percent of its land mass as crown land, and it all belongs to the people, it is not government land, it does not belong to PLP, FNM, or any other political acronym, or nomenclature, past,  present or future.

In Bakers Bay, Abaco, in Mayaguana, in Exuma, in Bimini, and elsewhere, and others on the market, we have witnessed a giveaway and a desecration of our heritage of land, sea, beach and seabed. The incredible and reprehensible destruction of so much of the beautiful, magnificent sea-beds on that little gem of Bimini is a prime example of the rape of our heritage. From air, land and sea, to behold what Bimini Bay (Genting) developers have done to that little jewel in the sea is prime example of what should never, ever be tolerated any place in the world, much less here in the Bahamas.  They have devastated, destroyed hundreds of square meters of spawning grounds in the flats of Bimini Bay; they have excavated millions of tons of the soft sea bed, bringing with it only God knows how many endangered species, to create an embankment atop the narrow strip of sand and pine trees.  There they continue to build million dollars homes for second home owners, who are present  for not more than five month out of the entire year.

They did their own environmental impact study, presented to government and it was accepted with little or no change; one very peculiar item in it was that an area in the Bay called Mosquito Point was a dead zone, of no ecological value, inhabited by what they called dead or stunted mangroves.  Well, an ordinary Bahamian, with simple common sense, no formal ecological training, but armed with ancient knowledge, would know the value and reason why mangroves remain in a seemingly non-growing state for eons. That area of Bimini is reputed to be the most studied ecological system in the western hemisphere, due to the diverse marine species which spawn, breed, and some live their lives in that environment. That habitat boasts of the largest scientific shark research area in the world.  And we know that the level of the health of the shark, the top predator, is a reliable marker of the health of the general marine life.  The research scientists, we were told, shed tears as they had to watch the extent of the devastation of the Bay by the developers, and it continues.  An area which was totally annihilated used to be home for a large number of saw fish; consequently, they have literally disappeared from the entire Bay area.

All of this devastation has taken place with not the slightest consultation with the native people. And now that same company has permission to add insult to injury by constructing a  thousand foot long dock, jutting out into that Bimini-blue water on the west side of North Bimini, just opposite where the natives reside, not opposite its development, by the way.  That dock will then connect with a six acre (originally planned to be twelve acres) manmade island with a turning basin to accommodate a super fast cruise ship.  This ship will make two trips per day to bring 1500 gamblers to the new casino, which is under construction, again mounted upon mud from Bimini Bay. In order for this to be accomplished they will have to devastate, excavate, dig through one of the most world-famous dive environments in the world.  What will happen to those magnificent coral reefs, again, only God knows.

Now again, all of this is being done without any knowledge or input from the residents of Bimini; I will read to you a survey which was passed around after all the decisions were made, and heads of agreement documents signed.  All of this proposed destruction of our environment was predicated upon the establishment of that casino.  And by the way, the casino is being constructed by an entire crew of some two hundred foreign workers, with not a single Bahamian worker or contractor, we were told. The heads of agreement apparently allowed this company to bring in its own labor force, originally Mexicans, who fled the island due to slave-like labor tactics on the part of that company; presently another nationality is working there.

Can there  be any mystery then, that our environment would be subjected to indiscriminate and calloused treatment by persons who have not the slightest vested interest in this country and its people? As far as the dock and island, the people found out after they saw foreigners sounding the waters for placement of docking facilities. At one point they have trouble with part of their machinery collapsing into the water and had to call for local help to retrieve it; it was at that moment they learned the reason for the exploration of their seabed.

What is presently going on and tolerated in North Bimini is a fiasco, and it will end in an eventual catastrophe; Mother Earth will only tolerate this raping of her natural state for a time, and will return it to its divinely and wisely planned state in good order. It only takes a raging storm, category four, to achieve her reclamation and natural homeostasis.

How long will we allow this wanton destruction, rape of our heritage to continue.  They come with deep pockets, entice some unscrupulous persons in power, line their pockets; do their damage, and if their project fails, simply deal with it as a tax write off; go elsewhere to continue their dirty work, leaving us with dead zones; these places are now increasing more and more in our land. Just to cite a couple right here on Grand Bahama: The film crew for Pirates of the Caribbean filming in High Rock, and then leaving a disgusting mess in the sea and damage to water table. Then the environmental eye sore and fiasco left in West End by the Ginn Company. No other country on Earth would have allowed that to happen with penalty.

For the foregoing and so many other reasons, we are agitating, begging for, pleading to have laws, regulations and procedures put in place to control the use and misuse of our natural resources.  We desperately need our environmental protection act with the necessary power to prevent the indiscriminate, wanton and criminal abuse of our heritage.  We need desperately the freedom of information act to be finalized and presented to parliament. That will be the only natural recourse we would have to access critical information on projects which may impact our lives positively or negatively. Currently, the powers that be take pleasure, delight  and umbrage in hiding facts and decisions to which we as citizens have a right to be privy.

 

Clifton Bay is located at the western end of New Providence Island.  It is an ecologically sensitive and culturally important marine body adjacent to Clifton Heritage National Park. The land at Clifton Heritage National Park (which includes Jaws Beach) has been declared by statute to be an inalienable part of the national patrimony of the Bahamian people and to be held in trust by the Clifton Heritage Authority for the use and benefit of the our people. Clifton Bay is critical for the local diving and snorkeling industry and is home to unique coral reefs and conch populations.  As can be observed from the exhibit, Simms Point/Nygard Cay lies at the north-eastern tip of Clifton Bay.  On the north and north-eastern side of Clifton Bay lie a number of private residences within a development known as Lyford Cay.  This Bay has been over the recent years, negatively impacted by large scale developments in that area, namely, the Albany development, BEC, a brewery, a cement factory, and bunkering stations for all the major oil companies in New Providence; it  is also home of one of the largest non-offending dive operations on this side of the Atlantic.

The progressive dying of reefs, which originally began just feet from the Clifton shore, are now proceeding further and further away from the shoreline.  Diving in that area, one experiences, as I did personally, the presence of oil down to three feet into the water.  There are no fish which would normally inhabit the corals, for these corals are now dead; only migratory fish pass by occasionally; further out where the death carrying elements have not yet penetrated, there is a fairly good abundance of sea life.  But that will disappear as the pollution increases, unless we can get a grip on the oil oozing daily from BEC, and the bunkering stations. Tar settles on the bottom; and coming up from diving, one is covered in oil slick and tar deposits.  It has been documented that oil slicks  are seen some twenty miles extending out into the ocean in the west and northwest direction from Clifton, depending on wind direction and tide flow.

My sisters and brothers, if we cannot at this moment in time deal with this polluting and damaging scenario, how in the Good Lord’s view will we deal with oil exploration and drilling without proper environmental legislation, regulations, strategies and penalties to maintain our pristine marine environment. Having already granted permit to explore without these measures, is a prime example of the old saying, putting the cart before the horse.

Jaws Beach is located on the south-eastern portion of Clifton Bay.  It is a public beach, popular with both local residents and tourists. It forms part of the Clifton Heritage National Park.  Unfortunately, due to the illegal work which has been carried out over the years by or under the direction of Mr. Nygard, the adjacent beaches and mainly the Jaws Beach, have been partially to completely denuded of sand.  He has in this process accreted his property by an additional almost four acres.  He was granted three acres in 1984, and as of this year 2013, it has increased, due to astute engineering means to almost seven acres.  The resulting work has allowed him to create a beach where one would not naturally exist.  By the use of groynes, gabions, dredging, pumping of sand, from the bottom of the Bay and by other unseemly documented means,  he has managed to actually and criminally, occupy the additional four acres of our crown land, for which he is now applying for a permit to own, after the fact. This is not natural accretion, but, rather an artificially  well-planned, manufactured and engineered expansion into the sea bed, accompanied by the pumping of sand from the Bay, to create and nourish his own private beach.

During the previous government administration, the relevant agency ordered him to cease and desist and return the property to its original state. It stated as well that if he did not, the government would proceed to do so, and he would be responsible for the cost. He refused to obey the order; the government changed and now he is again applying to be permitted to own what by way of fraud he now already possesses.  It was within this context that the Coalition to Save Clifton Bay was formed, and now it has morphed into a national force to SAVE THE BAYS. What Nygard was allowed to do over the years, right in the sight of the agencies responsible for the protection of
our sacred heritage, is to say the least, sacrilegious.  However, this is not unique in our small nation, which has historically  been reputed to be for sale to the highest bidder.

But we have become the watch dog, the lobbying force and the advocate for the voiceless and the blind in this nation.  We will have our seabed returned, sand freed to flow across the Bay to Jaws Beach, which once (I saw it personally in 2003) was packed with sand from the water’s edge to form a thick bed of sand up to and under the spreading branches of the casuarina pine trees.  We will get our EPA to safeguard our heritage; we will get our FOA to give us the inalienable right to know what happens to our land, sea, sea coast, sea bed, and sand.   We will create a  new paradigm of the way our government communicates with us and how we are finally free and unafraid to communicate with whomever is in charge of our sacred heritage. As fear and trepidation are eradicated from our hearts, we will create a new and enlightened way forward for our small and precious nation.

All major environmentally focused organizations and coalitions have now joined with us to create a united and focused advocacy nationally.  They include:

ANDROS CONSERVANCY AND TRUST

BAHAMAS NATIONAL TRUST

BAHAMAS REEF ENVIRONMENT EDUCATIONAL FOUNDATION (BREEF)

CLIFTON HERITAGE PARK

FRIENDS OF THE ENVIRONMENT

SWIM FOR OCEAN SURVIVAL

THE ISLAND SCHOOL (on Eleuthera)

THE NATURE CONSERVANCY

YOUNG MARINE EXPLORERS

SAVE GUANA CAY REEF ASSOCIATION

ReEARTH BAHAMAS

GRAND BAHAMA HUMAN RIGHTS ASSOCIATION

THE LYFORD CAY PROPERTY OWNERS ASSOCIATION (LCPOA)

 

We are also now officially partners with the WATERKEEPER ALLIANCE, directed by Robert Kennedy JR. He is also a member of our “Save The Bays” Board of Directors.

Let me conclude by saying that I am not now, ever, or ever will be opposed to foreign investment, and the presence of any nationality crossing our borders legally. I am, however, in full accord with our Coalition, unequivocally and adamantly opposed to the indiscriminate raping of our beautiful land and sea for the benefit of any entity or individual.  We lament the fact that for too long we have been known as the country for sale. But that sale would not ever happen if we were educated, alert and at times mostly suspicious about those in power, who may relegate to themselves the prerogative to dispose of our sacred heritage; thereby, getting for us a meager pot of porridge, but for them a  load of filthy lucre. But beginning now, and into the next forty years, we will not ever again be hypnotized, mesmerized or hoodwinked by words of trickery and hidden agenda.

Thus we will be relentless in our agitation for a Freedom of Information Act, an Environmental Protection Act, and whatever other legislations and regulations necessary to safeguard this archipelago,  keeping it as the  awe struck astronauts, viewing our archipelago, from the realms of outer space, designated it the central gem of Mother Earth.

While we have evolved very quickly into a national NGO (Non-Governmental Organization), our initial and immediate focus is still Clifton Heritage Sea Park, inclusive of Jaws Beach. The object is to establish a symbiotic working relationship between all entities operating in that land and sea area.  We are not that daft to believe that any one operation would be asked to, or forced to leave that environment. But we are lobbying for the respectful, responsible and conscientious regard for every aspect which makes that a unique place to be preserved along with the Clifton Heritage Land Park. It will then form a unique microcosm of what can be established throughout our islands, the region and the world.

Please one and all sign our online petition (www.savethebays.bs), in taking a bold first step to assist in this mission to preserve into perpetuity this incredible spot on Earth.

And once again the words of admonition from probably the greatest environmentalist to ever live, Jacques Yves Cousteau:

“For most of history, man has had to fight nature to survive; in this century he is beginning to realize that, in order to survive, he must protect it.”


(This was a presentation made by Joseph Darville at the Rotary Club of Sunrise Meeting on Wednesday 22 May 2013)



About the Author:   Joseph Darville is a native of Long Island, Bahamas and a resident of Freeport, Grand Bahama. He is the founding member and past president of the Bahamas Counselor's Association; past president of the Bahamas Mental Health Association and the Grand Bahama Mental Health Association; founding member and past president, and presently Vice-President, of the Grand Bahama Humane Rights Association; founding member and presently co-chairman of the Bahamas National Drug Council; a founding member of the Caribbean Human Rights Network; past VP of the Caribbean Federation of Mental Health; founding member and chairman of Operation Hope, [volunteer drug prevention, education & rehabilitation program]; and an administrative VP of the Freeport YMCA. Joseph is a past VP of the Bahamas Union of Teachers and taught at the St. Augustine's College in Nassau as well as at Queens' College, where he was also a guidance counselor; principal of Grand Bahama Catholic High School from 1977-1997. He is an advanced master/teacher in Reiki training, a natural energy healing method, as well as a teacher of Transcendental Meditation. He has received many awards for outstanding service and achievement in teaching, communication, and citizenship, including the 25th year of independence Commonwealth of the Bahamas Citizen’s Award. He now serves as a director of the Coalition to Save The Bays, and presently Board Chairman for the Grand Bahama Humane Society. Joseph is married to Melanie and they have two children, and two grand children. Joseph can be reached at jdarville2002@yahoo.com



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