Leader of the Opposition Godwin Friday has described as “backward” a proposal to remove a portion of reef at Indian Bay, which an investor claims is dead.
“Any proposal to remove a reef, and I will say it, dead or alive, to me is backward,” Friday said Monday on his weekly show on NICE Radio.
“I am completely opposed to that proposal and to put something artificial in its place? C’mon!” said Friday, who is his New Democratic Party’s lead spokesperson on tourism matters.
“And the story that the reef is dead, again, from what I have seen, from persons who have responded, it is not true.”
Hotel investor Raffique Dunbar is seeking permission from the Physical Planning and Development Board to extract a “dead/ dying” coral reef 350 feet along the coast and 50-60 feet outwards into the sea, a total area of 17,500 square feet.
He is also proposing to place a new artificial reef at about 100-150 feet from the shore –using concrete x blocks, the surface area of which will exceed that of the extracted coral.
Dunbar is also asking for permission to deposit imported sand in the area to increase beach width — “beach nourishment”.
However, Friday said Vincentians cannot “allow for our natural marine environment to be sacrificed for a short-term gain or for something that may be more convenient for a developer.
“And I wish that they will rethink that because it is not something that can be done,” he said, adding that the nation must protect the country’s marine environment.
“And the people who have put out the petition and the people who have signed it, I hope that their numbers will double and triple because to me, that is an easy one for people to say, no, no, no, you can’t do that. Find something else for potential attraction to your visitors.”
The St. Vincent and the Grenadines Environment Fund has collected 4,163 signatures, most of them Vincentians, who oppose the removal of the reef.
“And so I am totally in agreement with those persons who have weighed in to say that we must not remove the reef. And that reef must not be removed. I heard that an application was made to planning and I expect that they will reject it.
“It is one of the things that anybody, everybody with any modicum of sense would understand: that you have to protect your natural environment, your marine environment and the things that make us who we are.”
He said that people visit the country because of certain things that they are attracted to.
“If you change those things to try and attract others, then you will be alienating those people who might have come for what was there originally. But more important than that, we have to have within ourselves an intrinsic sense of what is good for us, what is good for our country and where we want to go, where the line will not be crossed.”
The opposition leader said that development is always balancing the environmental and other factors along with the economic benefit from the development.
“But as the old saying goes, ‘You can’t kill yourself to mind yourself. ‘So you can’t destroy the things that make you happy, thinking that getting a project that will create jobs will substitute for it.
“It has to add value, it has to add to what we already cherish and love about St. Vincent and the Grenadines. And if we don’t identify for ourselves, understand what is valuable and precious in what we have and insist on protecting and maintaining them, then we have lost our way.”
Friday said he was glad to see that stage and that “people of conscience, people with common-sense, people who love this country, they stand up and they say, ‘No! No! No! This is not a good idea.” And for those persons who propose it, they should rethink that and withdraw the application before it’s denied.”