Eco-bill still in limbo on world environment day

| 05/06/2012

front.jpg(CNS): In his message to mark World Environment Day UN Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon spoke about the need for a paradigm shift towards a more sustainable world. Here in the Cayman Islands however, there is still no legislation in place to protect the natural environment. As the world gears up for the sustainable development conference in Rio, myriad unique and endangered species of flora and fauna remain at risk locally as yet another government fails to enact the necessary legislation. As the world moves to discuss the importance of sustainability in future development, Cayman’s development laws cannot even protect essential mangrove buffer.

Since 2000 successive governments have promised but continued to fail to enact any kind of meaningful legislation to protect the environment. The most recent law the National conservation bill remains in limbo after enduring several years of consultation. Although government finished its last round of public discussion more than 18 months ago, it has not yet decided how to move forward with the critical legislation.

The minister responsible, like others before him had stated that the law was a priority for his ministry when he was elected to office in May 2009 but three years later the bill remains stalled. In January this year Jennifer Ahearn, the chief officer in the ministry, told CNS that the ministry was deciding whether to change the bill based on the input received during the last consultation period, or to let the bill go forward as drafted.

“Discussions on that have not yet happened,” the chief officer admitted at the time.
Meanwhile, the director of the Department of Environment (DoE) has persistently warned of the pressing need for legislation the clock is ticking on the islands’ precarious environmental resources.

Gina Ebanks-Petrie has repeatedly stated that at the very least environmental considerations need to be given equal weight in planning and development decisions as other factors such as socio-economic impacts. The proposed bill has been much misunderstood, and the department’s director has said that it would not enable the seizure of people’s private land by government. The only land that can be preserved for environmental purposes under the draft bill is that belonging to the crown. Ebanks-Petrie said it will not stop development but merely requires the country’s natural resources to factor equally in development decisions.

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.
Despite wide support across the community for the legislation, with media straw polls persistently showing around three quarters of the population in favour of passing the current draft law, the government has still not been persuaded of the urgency required regarding the legislation. The draft bill has been re-written several times but a vocal minority has been able to hold the bill hostage.

Cayman is now only five months away from the implementation of its Bill of Rights as set down in the 2009 constitution which refers to environmental rights. Unless the law is passed, the environment will not be protected in direct contravention of section 18, which states that government should adopt legislation to protect wildlife and local biodiversity.

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  1. Anonymous says:

    As per usual in Cayman, there is far too much self interest blocking the progress of environmental protection.

    When certain politicians stop poaching the grouper, duck, lobster and conch, when they stop blocking new planning regulations, (designed to halt the reduction of the mangroves) for their own property deals. And, when they give the DoE Enforcement team the powers, equipment and effective manpower to do their job, we will never see progress.

  2. Nick Robson says:

    The lack of an Environmental Conversation Bill is completly untenable. A healthy, unpolluted environment is a human right. Scientists are begining to discover that a healthy environment requires an extremley diverse biome to remain viable, it is not enough to preserve a few species as ‘Greenwash’.

    There is an interesting initiative that is begining to grab headlines. This is the Ecocide Initiative. See <> This initiative will make it illeagal, under international law to pollute and damage the environment.It is seen by its developer, Polly Higgins, a barrister from the UK as ‘The Fifth Law Against Peace’.

    If we keep on polluting and destroying the environment we will continue to see extreme weather events such as the Russian 2010 heat wave and drought which was the worst in fifty years. The massive wildfires spread across seven regions including Moscow. The devastation to the grain crop drove wheat prices to the highest since 1973, and if this trend were to continue it could have an effect on food security. Russia’s Grain Union stated that this was the worst drought since record keeping started 130 years ago. The heat-wave and smoke from the fires killed tens of thousands of people from respiratory illnesses and heat stress. For another example we need look no forther that the 2010 and 2011 floods in Pakistan which although they killed approximatly 1200 left twenty million homeless. In the Caribbean we may well see much stronger hurricanes, and we will certainly be subjected to sea level rise.

    Climate change is the most serious peril that has faced humanity in its long history. However, we are faced with more than climate change, there is peak oil and an out of control population, as well as concerns for water and food security in the years to come.

    As I said to a colleague recently “failing to plan is planning to fail”.

    Humanity is today playing in the major leagues. We are in a sink or swim situation. If we can keep the planet habitable by mitigating and adapting to the changing climate, switching to alternative sources of energy such as solar, wind, geothermal, wave, ocean thermal and nuclear, sequester CO2 and provide the population with adequate supplies of water and food and bring the population under control, humanity may survive .

    Warfare and conflict will also need to become a thing of the past as climate change and energy may well exacerbate conflict situations. With a 9.5 billion global population by 2050 ensuring that everyone has adequate food and water could be problematic.

    There is however, no ‘Plan B’ if we fail to resolve all the problems facing us.

    Nicholas Robson
    Cayman Institute

    • Anonymous says:

      Plan B is the UK.  As everything else fails in Cayman The UK has an easy act to follow.

  3. Anonymous says:

    No surprise here. As this (and previous Gvernments) are only concerned with short term monetary benifits.

    "Short Term Gain for Long Term Pain"!

  4. peter milburn says:

    And the beat goes on with this lack of such an important piece of legislation.Lets face it folks NO ONE in this present Govt gives a damn about our environment and never will until their agendas are all complete.I have been saying this for 47 years and will continue til the day I pass on these islands cannot and will not survive without the proper protection for our Natural Environment.This is what brings so many people to our shores BUT keep destroying everything and see how fast they find another place to visit.This is the way the world is going as more and more people are seeking out countries where Eco Tourism is at the forefront.You Govt folks had better start to wake up and realise this before its too late.I certainly hope that our new incoming Govt will be made up of people with Balls enough to take this situation seriously and to make it a priority.

  5. SKEPTICAL says:

    As long as enhanced Environmental Laws might stand between Developers/Government and even just ONE MORE DOLLAR of profit, Cayman can kiss goodbye to any protection for it’s natural habitat. Future generations will deride this government for failing to pass the legislation necessary to protect what little of their natural heritage still remains.

    • Anonymous says:

      You are so correct.

      Do not forget that as long as everything is "descretionary" then the bribe $$$ will keep rolling on in!!

      One thing is sure, the environment has no real friends in our political system.


  6. noname says:

    Give it up already!  Cayman has neither the morals nor the work ethic to do the work needed to pass anything not related to immediate (monentary) rewards.  All talk and no work =CIG.

  7. anonymous says:

    Shame on Cayman's greed and desire to put money above the well being of our Islands.

  8. Anonymous says:

    Sometimes I could swear that this legislation is deliberately being left, while protocols are being breached and new legislation being rushed through to accommodate development in areas that would otherwise have been protected had the environmental law been in force now.

  9. Anonymous says:

    Unbelievable not too still!

  10. Anonymous says:

    Seems it takes 18+ months to try to make a decision in the Ministry of Environment. The Minister and Chief Officer should not be paid anymore until  they make a decison on this bill.

  11. Anonymous says:

    welcome to the caymankind land……

  12. Anonymous says:

    There is going to be a Sustainable Development Conference in Rio? Please book to first-class airfares for JuJu.