Cayman faces serious environment risks

| 17/01/2014

(CNS): A new report by the UK’s Environmental Audit Committee on sustainability in the overseas territories has raised a litany of serious environmental risks in Cayman, which was one of the territories it visited during the course of compiling the report. Taking the British government to task overits failure to ensure sufficient guardianship of the environment in its territories, the report raises concerns about the Cayman Turtle Farm, waste management problems, uncontrolled development and the failure to use the Environmental Protection Fund in Cayman. The report also found that inadequate development controls and no statutory requirements for EIA’s are threatening the islands.

The in-depth report covers all of the UK’s territories and raises a significant number of issues relating to myriad environmental problems. However, Cayman features heavily in the report as it was one of the case studies.

As an example of the dangers of uncontrolled development, the report highlights a situation in Little Cayman of developers clearing land in preparation for a significant sub-division, which has caused concern for residents but seems to be flying under the radar regarding local activists.

“We identified a pertinent example how inadequate development controls impact the environment when we visited the Cayman Islands,” the report states.

Pointing to the lack of a development plan for Cayman Brac and Little Cayman and minimal planning controls, the committee said that a British company, Crown Acquisitions, had purchased land on all three Cayman Islands, which it has subdivided into undeveloped plots.

“Crown Acquisitions told us that it owns approximately 200 residential plots with planning permission on Little Cayman,” the report said. However, CNS understands that Crown Acquisitions has not, in fact, made a single planning application on the Sister Islands.

The authors went on to explain that given the size of Little Cayman and its healthy marine environment, as well as it being home to the largest red-footed booby population in the Caribbean, and the fact that Crown Acquisitions told the committee “that it had not assessed the impact of its proposed development on Little Cayman's infrastructure,” there was significant concern about the development and the impact on the islands’ unique environments.

“Although they are acting within the current development framework, developers are risking the biodiversity and ecological sustainability of the Cayman Islands. That is the direct consequence of inadequate development controls and lack of comprehensive governance arrangements,” the committee warned.

The audit committee berates the Foreign and Commonwealth Office for not meeting its constitutional responsibility to ensure that good governance arrangements in the UK's overseas territories include sustainable development, effective development controls and statutory environmental impact assessments for major developments and strategic infrastructure plans. It presses the office to direct governors to advocate strongly for the introduction of effective development controls.

The report describes the UK Government as having “constitutionally subcontracted environmental management” directly to the territories but the committee found that this does not devolve away the UK's ultimate responsibility under international law.

“The overseas territories are plainly not independent sovereign States. Their external relations remain the responsibility of the United Kingdom, the sovereign power. Accordingly, the United Kingdom is responsible for each of the territories under international law,” the report states.

With more than 500 globally threatened species in the territories and undisturbed habitats of international significance, the UK government has acknowledged the importance and sensitivity of the rich biodiversity among them but the committee accused the FCO of abdicating its responsibility.

“During our inquiry, the UK Government expressed general but unspecified aspirations to 'cherish' the environment in the overseas territories, but it was unwilling to acknowledge or to address its responsibilities under United Nations treaties. This was disappointing, because the environment in the Overseas Territories is globally significant and comprises 90% of the biodiversity for which the UK Government has responsibility,” the report said

In Cayman alone the report points to a litany of environmental problems and while it welcomed the introduction of the National Conservation Law, it had significant concerns about waste management practices in the Cayman Islands.

“We saw old refrigerators being crushed with no regard to CFCs and recycling that ranged from minimal to non-existent,” the report reads. “The waste management site on Grand Cayman appeared to be inadequately lined and waste may be seeping into the water table. The facilities on Cayman Brac and Little Cayman were even less convincing. The facility on Little Cayman was lined, but the lining had been fractured by the unregulated burning of rubbish. The facility on Cayman Brac was unlined and waste appeared to be seeping into a nearby lake

“Local authorities in the UK have the expertise to address those issues. Cayman Islands Government and the UK Government might wish to consider developing a partnership with a UK local authority to share best practice,” the report.

Pointing to Cayman’s Environment Protection Fund, which is currently worth more than £40 million, none of which has been used for environmental protection, the committee said the UK Government could have persuaded the Cayman Islands Government to use it for its intended purpose.

“If the fund were used for its intended purpose, it would allow UK funding for environmental protection, such as Darwin Plus, to be directed to other UKOTs which have more limited resources than the Cayman Islands and which do not have access to their own environment funds,” they wrote.

However, pressure from the FCO regarding Cayman’s finances had led to the government keeping hold of the $40 million to boost its reserves.

“The UK Government is prepared to exercise hard and soft power in relation to financial matters in the UKOTs, but it is apparently not prepared to exercise those powers to protect biodiversity and to promote environmental sustainability," the report found, as it pointed to a long list of recommendations about dealing with the OT’s environment issues.

Check back to CNS regarding the report’s findings on the Turtle Farm.

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  1. Anonymous says:

    I hope the bunch of you tree huggers have at least put on some long boots and walked at least 2 hours in the central mangrove that is not a quarry . Where there is no roads and shot pictures of what exactly you are trying to stop a road from going through to save. If you haven't then please go and hike through that smelly mosquito infested swamp and give us a presentation of it. I want to sell … one has contacted me from the National Trust. I have three other offers on the table. I will give time for a realistic offer 50-100 acres north of Paul Bodden quarry and west of Midland Acres with the new road going through it . It has planning board approval to subdivide into 3- 50 acre parcels. Once you buy you can protect it or make it into another quarry. 

    I will let the public know how many really want to protect the swamp .

    David Miller

    • Anonymous says:

      Completely missing the point of the article which is about a road going through the Mastic. Which the Trust did buy. But I don't suppose thats a topic that supports the argument you want to start so lets just ignore it.

      • Anonymous says:

        Here's the point …..How many tourists actually walk the entire trail ? How much does Gov't get in revenue from the mastic trail ? If the trail was shortened , how many more people would walk the trail ?

        New road to frank sound is ESSENTIAL for Shetty's hospital and new retirement project. It could come straight from airport facilitating life giving moments to sick people who are coming here to use the new hospital. You people care more about mastic trail then life saving of human beings. 

        If someone was hurt on the trail , they would have to be carried 2 miles for help. Has anyone thought about that ?


        • Anonymous says:

          A – the trail is not government. So they don't make money, but Cayman does.

          B – it's not all about money.

          C – the road can easily go around the Mastic, it doesn't need to go through it. 

          D – the patients going to Shetty are not emergency cases. Unless you know something about their hitherto secret air ambulance plans.

      • Anonymous says:

        D'oh, wrong article. My bad for jumping straight to the comments section.

      • Anonymous says:

        We did not get paid for it so i dont know who they bought it from.

    • Anonymous says:

      If there is karma then he is coming back as a mosquito in that swamp.

  2. Anonymous says:

    UK FCO, take the DoE out of CIG control and defend our islands from backward looking, self interest.


  3. Otherview says:

    I would hug a tree, a Mahogony Tree, if there were any left……………….

    Oh shoot……we cut them all down and used, or SOLD them years ago.

    • Anonymous says:

      Typical fear mongering from the fact void environmental extremists. Perhaps if you knew what a mahogany tree looks like, you would see one of the many still around.

    • Anonymous says:

      "Years ago" indeed! Starting in the 1730's John Bodden and William Foster had a profitable business with their slaves cutting and squaring mahogany which was then shipped to JA. With the Cayman resettlement of British refugees from the Miskito Coast in the 1780's most of the large mahogany trees were  gone by 1800.

  4. Anonymous says:

    A report for environmental extremists BY environmental extremists. Would not expect it to be any different. – the sky is falling

    • Anonymous says:

      Maybe, but you can't deny the need for balance, which is the real missing element to sustainable development in Cayman.

  5. Anonymous says:

    If the central bypass extension is built, you can kiss the environment goodbye. The combination of  inadequate  planning laws, an outdated development plan and a  Conservation Law with a single tooth left, will lead inevitably to destruction on a massive scale.

    Caymanians must decide what sort of home they want to see in 50 years. You can't set a course if you don't know where you're going. The garbage, the overburdened infrastructure, the stress on the reef, the careless destruction in the Sister islands, and haphazard over-development, all point to a crowded, unregulated,  degraded little island, that will wake up one day, look in the mirror and see a wizened, tired face staring back.

    We are passing through a critical time in our history, and I have little confidence in the collective will of the people to force the right choices, as the vested interests are just too entrenched. There are some good people out there, but their task ahead is truly daunting. To achieve a bright future, Cayman is going to have to fight for it tooth and nail, before all ts teeth and nails are gone, and Time's priceless gifts that were 100,000 years in the making are squandered like a teenager's inheritance.

  6. Truth says:

    When fools are given the right to rule only foolish things will happen.  At least they did not pass any laws to make them smarter then the rest of us for life.  Yet.

    • Anonymous says:

      Learn the difference between “then” and “than” before looking down your nose at the people of the island YOU moved to.

  7. anonymous says:

    These reports by folks from DEVELOPED countries really do not apply to a country like ours which is DEVELOPING. Surely they chopped down a few forests in Nottingham to develop their country. We are at a stage in our development where we MUST transform some of our natural resources into built resources….we should do it responsibly but we have to do it. These reports are a waste of paper and only set up for the tree huggers!!

    • Anonymous says:

      19.50. The question isn't whether Cayman should embrace physical development or not, but  how these transformations  should be carried out. The end result can be either  brilliant and desirable or haphazard and needlessly destructive, of what is, after all, a very beautiful and unique natural environment. To say the report  is written for tree-huggers is just silly and provocative, which is what I suspect it's intended to be.

      • Anonymous says:

        i agree with most of what you have to say. I love trees, shrubs, orchids, bromeliads etc but at the same time our people in the eastern districts need employment. If I had to choose betwen a grandchild getting  good nutrition, education, medical attention  and saving a Cayman Orchid I certainly would be on the side of the grandchild. But you know what we don't have to do that, we don't have to care for one and destroy the other. There are always ways for man and nature to co-exist.  I am sure this project and road can be erected in a way that will be sensitive to the enviornment. We have brilliant folks who can do just that.  Why do we have to always pass these insults back and forth- that certainly is not helping.Some of you will jump at any and every opportunity to insult and put us down.   I am a Caymanian who loves nature, admire a lovely garden, love birds, dogs, cats above all people , but I do realise that each has its place in this society.  We can all live in harmony if each one will learn to respect each other's opinion and do not think that you are the only one with a good idea.

    • Chris Johnson says:

      Please do not refer to Nottingham. As a direct descendent of Robin Hood I can assure you that the Major Oak where he lived with the good Maid Marion,is still alive and well. Yes I am a tree bugger!

      • anonymous says:

        Sure it is…haha…Its a good thing your ancesters did cut down a few forests and filled in a few swamps ( London) or the UK would look a lot different today.

        Developing countries MUST CONVERT some environment into a built one…no option. Do not compare Cayman with the UK…you guys have been chopping down forests for the last 1000 years…glad to hear you have stopped now.

      • Anonymous says:

        Good grief, Chris, you don't really believe all that Maid Marion nonsense do you? If so, I have to reassess my views on your pronouncements in CNS over the years.