Linda Clark BIO0066

Written Evidence submitted by Linda Clark, Cayman Islands, UK Overseas Territory, Civil Society

 

Reason for Submission: Concerned Caymanian: Virgin Habitat & Ecosystem Loss alarming, creating inequality

Cayman Islands (Cayman) is only 100miles square in land area. Out of control, unplanned development is destroying entire virgin habitat and globally important ecosystems, e.g. Mangrove Wetlands, Endemic Dry Forests, Coral Reefs, Seagrass beds, Sandy Beach, Ironshore, contributing to significant biodiversity loss and extinction of endemic species at an alarming rate. Current developments pose an imminent threat for critically endangered species and biodiversity loss.

 

Executive Summary:

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West Side Grand Cayman Mangrove Loss 69% from 1976 – 2013 (N.b. data outstanding 2013 - 2020)

Source: Cayman Islands Department of Environment www.doe.ky

  1. Unsustainable Economic model: Exponential Growth

CIG’s exponential growth model1 exacerbated inequality over the past three decades.[7] Natural Capital loss, inadequate infrastructure, lack of wastewater and storm water management, and uncontrolled pollution create generational inequality, loss of quality of life, loss of mental and physical health, biodiversity and ecosystem loss. MPs ignore longer term alternate models e.g. Blue/Green Economy, Circular Economy, Doughnut Economy or alternative measurements of success to GDP, e.g. Human Development Index.[8]

  1. Unsustainable Tourism: Mass Cruise Tourism & Expanding Air Passengers

CIG growth model is inconsistent with sustainable tourism and is avoidable by implementing CIG’s National Tourism Plans.[9] Cayman should not become a Case Study in Self Destruct Theory of Tourism Model (Holder, 1988)[10]. CIG ignores public comments in private consultant reports. Caymanians are losing Beach Access Rights[11] and beaches are eroding from private development on the active shoreline for over-sized tourism hotels and condos.[12] Carrying capacity is ignored by CIG. Cruise tourism is a daily invasion, with 1.9 million passengers[13] p.a. and 600+ ships, pre-Covid-19. Demand for a cruise pier threatens our coastal ecosystems.[14] Air arrivals increased to over 500,000[15] p.a. increasing pressure on inadequate island infrastructure.

  1. Population growth unsustainable7

CIG’s population growth strategy of 100,000+ is environmentally, socially and culturally unsustainable. Those with dual citizenship, or foreign national partners will continue emigrating, leaving behind the most vulnerable Caymanians.

  1. Private Sector driving development

Private sector dictates Cayman’s land-use, eroding Cayman history and Culture e.g. Dart’s[16],[17] Camana Bay, an expanding planned village replacing virgin mangrove forests;[18] Dart hotels monopolise 7-Mile Beach, contributing to erosion;[19] Dart owns vast parcels of land in all 3 islands; the second largest employer after government, Dart has significant undue and undemocratic influence on the future of Cayman. Financial Service industry growth has increased demand for housing and infrastructure, costing entire Mangrove Ecosystems and important coastal habitats (Jurn et al, 2016).[20]

  1. Auditor General Report 2015 findings unaddressed

Auditor General Report ‘National Land Development & Government Real Property’6 June 2015 findings on illegal development approved outside of the planning process e.g. “NRA-Dart Agreement” and “Shetty Hospital Agreement” remain unaddressed six years later.

  1. Planning decision makers hold significant conflicts of interest

Central Planning Authority, responsible for planning approvals, remains conflicted with members re-appointed by Cabinet[21] from the construction industry lacking experience or qualifications in land use or sustainable development.[22] E.g. Dagarro Project, Cayman Brac, threatening Sister Island Rock Iguana. (See Appendix 1 for Case Study Example of immediate threat.)

  1. Planning waivers and exemptions pervasive6

Central Planning Authority waives planning law setbacks, including coastal setbacks and overrides specialist advice e.g. from Water Authority and Department of Environment for water run-off, drainage basins impacts, sewerage & freshwater lens contamination & compounded impacts.[23] Directly contributing to adverse social and environmental impacts of pollution, coastal erosion, increased risk from hurricanes and sea level rise.

  1. After-the-fact planning approvals

Mangroves, dry forest and coastal ecosystems destroyed by developers without permission are approved by after the fact permission, with a fine. The practice is widespread. The fine cost is absorbed into the development[24]. “It is easier to ask for forgiveness than permission.” The Mangrove Species Protection Plan is not enforced.[25]

  1. Planning regulation changes not transparent[26]

Planning regulations are changed by cabinet without public consultation, business case, or alignment with government policies. E.g. building height increases, special economic zones and private planned area developments.[27]

  1. COVID-19 recovery plan is a Construction Boom[28]

MPs dismissed Department of Environment experts’ COVID-19 economic exit strategy to Transition to a Green Economy.[29]

  1. Imminent Development Threats for irreversible loss of ecosystems and species

Currently in Planning process:

11.1.    Central Mangrove Wetlands[30] largest contiguous mangrove forest in the Caribbean, parcels sold in 2020 to wealthy developer. Road projects could fragment the system imminently.[31]

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Central Mangrove Wetlands, Grand Cayman, 74% Private Land Held Within Boundary (6,436.16 acres)

Source: Department of Environment

 

11.2.    Barker’s Beach – remaining west-side Grand Cayman Mangroves, zoned hotel/tourism. Coastal works applications for seagrass removal already submitted by developers.[32]