The Bahamas: Court Action for Bell Island Dredging Project

A prominent attorney plans to apply for a judicial review in the Supreme Court this week to get a judge to disallow dredging on Bell Island. The government recently granted billionaire philanthropist, Prince Karim al-Hussaini, the Aga Khan IV permission to dredge a seabed in the Exuma Cays Land and Sea Park.

The move angered many environmentalists and residents throughout The Bahamas.

Opposition has been mounting for months, but reached a boiling point after the approval was granted.

Attorney Keod Smith, who was also once an ambassador for the environment, confirmed that he will head to court.

He, and Save The Exuma Park (STEP) Committee spokesman, Terry Bain held a town meeting in Black Point, Exuma Saturday morning and another town meeting in George Town, Exuma Saturday night.

During the meetings, many residents voiced serious concerns and opposition for the dredging.

During both meetings, committee members asked Exuma residents to sign petitions.

Two more town meetings are planned.

One will take place this evening in Stafford Creek, Andros to discuss Kamalame Cay and another one will take place tomorrow at the British Colonial Hilton.

The Department of Physical Planning recently approved plans to dredge and excavate more than 12 acres of land and sea at the 349-acre island in the park.

According to the Bahamas National Trust (BNT), the Aga Khan applied in August for permission to expand an existing service/utility area for his vacation home, excavate an inland yacht basin and to dredge a portion of the seabed to provide navigable access for his 150-foot private yacht.

Residents and environmentalists are not the only ones unhappy about the government’s decision to approve dredging on Bell Island.

The Bahamas Commercial Fishers Alliance also voiced serious objections.

“This development at Bell Island will set a precedent for future larger developments and commercial activity that will impact the quality of that marine environment; there is potential for depletion of natural resources, pollution resulting in a harmful physical impact on the sea bed,” the alliance said.

“Increased development will not only lead to mass tourism, but greater demands for freshwater hence generating greater volumes of waste water, sewage treatment and the chemical threat to coral reefs from waste runoff and discarded refuse. While we are not opposed to development, extensive development that involves the disturbance of the sea bed and the natural environment is unacceptable, antithetical to the establishment of a marine protected area.”

By Rogan Smith (jonesbahamas)

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Source: jonesbahamas, November 30, 2010;

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