Clock ticks on environment

| 25/06/2010

Cayman Islands News, Grand Cayman Island Headline News(CNS): The Department of the Environment is calling on the public to throw its weight behind the proposed National Conservation Bill to ensure that this time the law makes it through the Legislative Assembly. With the clock ticking on the islands’ precarious environmental resources, local experts have pointed out that the law has to be enacted at the earliest opportunity if the Cayman Islands is to have any chance at all of preserving what is left its dwindling natural resources.  From the silver thatch palm and the banana orchid to Cayman’s unique bats and reptiles, few of the islands’ indigenous species currently have any kind of legislative protection. (Photo – Old George in the George Town Forest)

The DoE has begun an all out campaign to raise awareness over the desperate need to enact a law that will finally ensure that the natural environment is given the same consideration as economic and social issues when it comes to the development of the country.
Gina Ebanks-Petrie, the director of the DoE, said that there had to be a way to develop the country and protect the environmental resources as well, as she sent the message out to the community to learn all they could about the law and voice their support to the ministry. Speaking to the media this week at a special presentation, the director detailed the precarious situation facing the country’s natural resources.
Armed with only the Animals Law and the Marine Conservation Law, the director has depended on what she termed a series of “gentlemen’s agreements” with various government departments in order to protect the local environment and green spaces.
However, an opportunity once again has arisen to get the proposed National Conservation Law on to the statute books. Mark Scotland, the minister with responsibility for the environment, has said he is willing to bring the law to the Legislative Assembly this September.
As a result, the consultation period for comment, as well as support, has reopened and will be open until the middle of next month. The director said the DoE team will be doing all it can over the next few weeks to inform people about the law and dispel any myths that have continued to circulate about this piece of legislation that have continued to delay its passage.
Ebanks-Petrie said that a small number of people will always be against any kind of legislation in favour of the natural environment but she believes the vast majority of people in Cayman now want to do something to conserve what is left of what was once an abundant natural environment – which is fast disappearing.
Because the islands have already lost so much of their natural environment, from green spacesto buffer zones, there are no guarantees that this law will secure the future of our natural resources but without it, Ebanks-Petrie said, there is little chance that Cayman’s unique species of flora and fauna will survive the onslaught of a growing population and continuous development.
“Now is the time for people to show their support for this final draft of the law and write to the ministry,” she said, adding that environmental rights had also been added to the Bill of Rights due to come into effect in 2012 – another compelling reason for the law.
Despite the misinformation that has been perpetuated, the director explained the law did not enable the seizure people’s private land. The only land that could be preserved for environmental purposes under this law is that belonging to the crown. She said it will not stop development but merely require planning to consider the country’s natural resources when making decisions.
The law will also provide more powers to environmental officers to enforce the marine laws, as well as formalise the work of the DoE, enable compliance with international treaties and offer legal protection to the country’s unique species and their habitats.
Cayman is home to a numberof indigenous bats, butterflies and lizards, and endangered flora, such as the critically endangered ‘Old George’, a bromeliad (pictured above) that grows only in a small selection of the forest in George Town, as well as the country’s national tree, the silver thatch, and its national flower, the banana orchid.
At present around 0.5% of Cayman’s land has any legal protection, which Ebanks-Petrie pointed out was only a fraction of that set aside by other countries in the region. This in turn still had very small amounts in comparison to countries that were pursuing real eco-tourism options, such as Costa Rica, which now has well over 40% of its land designated as protected areas. “It is not possible for us to talk about eco-tourism or sustainable development when so little of our land is protected.”
She also pointed out that even where some protection is afford, such as mangrove buffer zones under the planning regulations, because of its ability to protect the islands from hurricanes, the habitat  is still not safe from the bulldozer. This was recently demonstrated by a decision by the Central Planning Authority to ignore the DoE’s extensive research and recommendations over the buffer recently removed by the Ritz-Carlton developers.
Once the law is enacted, Ebanks-Petrie said she hopes the Department of Environment will be able to conserve Barker’s as a national park, as well as the central mangrove wetlands and the Mastic area, which are both precious natural eco-systems, by designating them special protected areas under the law.
The DoE will begin a series of district meetings starting next month where the team will conduct presentations about the law and answer the public’s questions and ask for their support. A schedule of where and when will be published shortly but the first meeting will take place in North Side on Thursday evening 1 July. A guide to the law has been published and is available at Anyone who would like to organise a presentation, ask about the law, offer their support or a suggestion can call 949 8469.
You can also show support by voting in the CNS poll Are-you-in favour-ofthe conservation-law
Check back to CNS next week for more stories regarding the pressing need for the National Conservation Law.
Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Category: Headline News

About the Author ()

Comments (12)

Trackback URL | Comments RSS Feed

  1. Anonymous says:

    McKeeva will not let this pass because it will prevent his distructive plans for destroying this island for XXXXX like;

    North Sound dredging

    East End Port

    Deals with developers

    East End oil refinery

    etc etc etc.

    Stop this man and the disruction he has planned for our country by supporting the DOE and this National Conservation Bill – Great job Gina ! 

  2. Bring back the birch says:

     Isn’t this a little like closing the door after the horse has bolted!

    With the greatest respect to Peter Milburn, but should he not have said  "The Cayman Islands was a jewel in the Western Caribbean"?

    It was a jewel plundered by the modern day pirates, mostly a bunch of opportunists with the Republican ideal of the end justifying the means, with absolutely no comprehension that the end is not only their booty, but the destruction of what it was that created their opportunity.

    Hopefully the world is now learning that things need to change, but I am not sure we are in time for the survival of what was the  Cayman Islands’ pristine environment.

    Good luck.




  3. Environmentalist says:

    Well done DoE. Well done Gina.  Let’s hope this gets passed. It is in all of our best interest!

    • Beachboi says:

      How can anyone who is not "brain dead" give a thumbs down to this comment? 

      As one other person commented, I also believe that it may be to late for us to begin "conserving" our natural resources.

  4. Anonymous says:

    Please let’s pass this bill now no more waiting we have spoking about this since 1996. Before every turtle, parrot, mangrove and blue iguana is gone. Cayman is such a beautiful place and we have to protect our natural environment for future generations. Minister Scotland please do the right thing and stick to your promise, Mac make Barkers are true National Park that’ll provide jobs for Caymanians. Thanks Gina for pushing this bill.


  5. Anonymous says:

    It’s hard to get excited about a Minister’s promise to bring legislation to protect the environment when the Premier has publicly stated that the North Sound will be dredged to allow access for Mega Yachts (read cheap fill) and also pristine reef somewhere near East End will be destroy for an un-natural harbour (more cheap fill).

    Maybe after the Premier has destroyed everything, he will find someone else to blame it on and then lead the charge to "fix" it.

    • Wha Ya Say says:

      Agreed it is hard, particularly as the last Minister promised to bring it to the house and didn’t and the real estate/quarry/developer lobby appear quite forceful.

      The only hope therefore lies with the often silent majority who now needto make their support for this Law heard. This is the only way to put the Government in the position of having to heed the voice of the people.

      Speak up one and all. Caymanians in particular, you have everything to lose here as every day a little more is lost, and this applies to Cayman Brac and Little Cayman as well.

  6. Kerry Horek says:

    Thank you Min. Mark Scotland for finally taking  this on and making good on your promise.

    I know that it has been sitting around for years and all those who came before you were either afraid or just couldn’t be bothered because of any backlash from developers etc.

    Thankfully, we have a good Minister like youwho cares enough for the future of our environment to preserve it.

    Also, thanks to Mrs. Gena Ebanks-Petrie for taking the helm with the public’s input.

    God bless you and you all have my full support on this.

    Kerry Horek
    ‘Keep my island Clean and Green’

  7. peter milburn says:

    I have lived in Cayman for 46 years now and I am still bewildered by the lack of protection for our delicate enviroment marine and otherwise.When the rest of the civilised world is taking the time to make sure their future is protected we are still living in the 19th century.What is it that makes this such a burden for successive govts to deal with?Has not enough proof been provided from other areas around the world where peoples eyes are wide open to taking care of the enviroment.The natural disasters that have befallen areas in the pacific rim where tidal waves have taken so many lives mainly through a lack of protecting mangroves which were destroyed to make someone rich.The denuding of forests around the world which have proved that doing this affects the rain fall and causes mudslides when it does rain which have taken countless lives through stupidity and lack of knowlege.One does not have to be a rocket scientist or have degrees in this and that to see how we are slowly robbing the world of what has been put here for all to enjoy NOT just a CHOSEN few money hungry people that are hell bent on being rich at others expense.Its called COMMON SENSE folks.

              The cayman Islands are a jewel in the western caribbean and yet we are just not looking at the bigger picture..Here is a document that has been prepared by the very people that are trained in this field and yet most govts choose to ignore their SOUND advice.What is it that makes our present govt so afraid to pass this into law?I can tell what that is!!!!!!PURE UNADULTERATED GREED!!!!!!Lets placate the developers before they move on to some other island and take their money with them.Lets face it No ONE has the guts to say NO!!! ENOUGH IS ENOUGH!!!!I can see that before this is passed into law many other things will be put through that are NOT good for what is left of the environment.The proposed channel into and through the North Sound,The proposed cargo dock in east end the cruise ship dock in g/t and the list goes on.Yes I agree that we must continue to develope but NOT in such a way that it destroys the one thing that keeps the tourists coming here.OUR BEAUTIFUL NATURAL ENVIRONMENT.Let me point out to many of you who might not remember that is was DIVERS that put Cayman where it is today and the SNORKLE trips that took folks out to the Sand bar and sting ray city.These are the people who came back year after year and helped put us where we are today and from this were formed many new friendships with Caymanians and from that progress was made in the further development of this country.I wonder what people like Capt.Marvin,Capt Crosby,Capt.Gleason Dexter and a host of other folks who make their living in the N/S on a daily basis think about this madness?Has anyone even thought to ask these local EXPERTS what their opinions are on digging such a big channel?Chances are they have not been asked but again I would bet they would NOT be in favour.

              To all you folks out there that are saying that this law should NOT be passed.I say shame on you for taking away your own childrens future something that most if not all of you have enjoyed since your younger days.Is this what you really want to happen?Give the young people a chance to enjoy their lives as well.What right do any of us have to take that away from them??This law does not take away anything from development in fact it will ENHANCE future projects and you should think long and hard about this before making a huge mistake in NOT passing this law ASAP.

    • Anonymous says:

      Is it possible that the damage from Ivan was greater because much of the mangroves around the island had been removed for buildings.

      • Anonymous says:

        This is not the case. There were two types of damage in Ivan (or any hurricane actually). 1. wind damage and 2. Water damage.( flooding and wave impact)

        1. The wind damage would not be abated by mangroves. The wind accounts for lost roofs, breached buildings, impact from flying debris, damaged crops,etc and would not be mitigated by mangroves.

        2. Flooding. Much of the damage in IVAN was in this category. In general, given the 8 feet of water which came with Ivan, some of which came from the rain and at least two thirty foot waves,given our terrain, the land would have been breached with or without the mangroves. Grand Cayman is shaped like a soup bowl with the rim on average of 5 or 6 feet above sea level. In fact the lack of mangroves may have sped up the water retuning to the sea. On the negative side, the lack would have obviously not filtered that water as well. The one exception would be the western wave(s) which went from the North sound across the peninsular. Mangroves would have slowed down and would have removed some of the kinetic energy (force) but the water would have passed through. Case in point is that a huge barge was found inland near CUC that obviously floated OVER the Mangroves to get there. Historical hurricanes from the mid 1800’s have shown the same level of flooding.

        3. Wave impact. This is where the mangroves may have helped but it would have been much better if the buildings were built further away from the sea, as was done by Caymanians in the ‘old days’. As the primary damage by wave action was done along the southern shore, East End, Bodden Town and the western seven mile beach where there were few mangroves historically and few have been removed, the island impact due to wave impact would not have been significantly different, with the possible exception of South Sound. So maybe 10% less damage with mangroves to Coastal buildings.

        In general, it is a myth that the mangroves form a “storm belt” or protection. What they do very well is provide a filtration system for run off and provide a habitat for small marine animals and some terrestrial one. In 1932 and 1944, prior to any mangrove removal, boats were also found deep inland, near ICCI having been floated right over the mangroves from the north sound. I would hazard to guess that the lack of mangroves caused less that 2-3% of the damage seen in Ivan compared to the situation should none have been removed.

        So to answer your question, yes slightly but more myth that fact. So keep the mangroves but do not rely on them to save you in a hurricane. To do that, stay away from the sea (waves) in a properly constructed building that is elevated at least 10 to 12 feet above sea level.

        The scary part is that IVAN is not our worst hurricane scenario by far. Ivan hit our south shore where the buildings are mainly residential. Our worst storm is a CAT 5 tracking south to north about 20 miles west and off the seven mile beach. Even given that we have very strong buildings wave impact would be the issue. That storm will remove most of the buildings on the seven mile beach and also in George Town, devastating our Financial and Tourism industries in one blow. These buildings would be damaged beyond repair for about 3 – 4 years. The harbour would of course be unusable (filled with building debris and sand ruble needing a minimum of a year of clearing and dredging) and most things would have to come in by air or barge, being landed on the west bay beach or south sound western ironshore. Our fuel storage would be destroyed taking over two years to be replaced. Fuel would be delivered directly from barge to tanker trucks and would easily hit $20-30 per gallon. Government would not be able to function nor have money to. Recovery would be measured in decades not years. Most people would have to leave. Keep fingers crossed and passport in dry spot.

        • Anonymouse says:

          Actually, having seen the ‘large barge’ at the GT Barcadere, and large boats washing inland at other marina areas it was obvious to me that they came in furthest in the breaks between the mangroves. The one at the barcadere, for example, came in where the barcadere has (for many decades) breached the mangroves there. At the yacht club the boats stopped at the mangroves after sailing over the cleared land. Boats from the Shores followed the roadways and other paths inland. I can’t speak to the 1932 & 1944 storms. However, I agree that a thin buffer of red mangroves is ineffective compared to a thick buffer of white, black and red mangroves, both as a physical barrier and as a filter. – Also everything else you said.