No EIA on Shetty hospital
(CNS): There are no plans on the first phase of the major medical centre development by Dr Devi Shetty in East End for an Environmental Impact Assessment, CNS has learned. According to records released by the health ministry on 28 September following an FOI request, the ministry has confirmed that up to date no EIA has been done. Correspondence between the developer’s local partner, the ministry and the Department of Environment reveals that significant clearance of land in the area had been done without any consultation with local experts on the previously undisturbed habitat, which was described as ‘obscene’ by the DoE director.
Pictures that circulated recently showing the extent of the clearance of primary shrub habitat on previously untouched land triggered major concerns from the DoE about the failure of the developers to undertake an EIA before that work started. The clearance was undertaken at a time when neither the hospital nor a proposed supporting resort in the area had planning permission.
In her correspondence to the chief officer in the ministry with responsibility for the environment, released to CNS under the FOI law, DoE Director Gina Ebanks- Petrie expressed her frustration at what is apparently the increasing inability to do anything to protect the country’s dwindling habitats and endangered species. Pointing to what she describes as the “obscene amount” of clearance at the site, she noted that the DoE were not even asked about the planned removal of so much important habitat.
Following the director’s email, Jennifer Ahearn contacted the minister but there appears to have been no response from him to her email pointing out that there has been no dialogue with the developer about the need for an EIA.
On 9 August last year Ahearn invited Gene Thompson, one of the local developers, to meet with the Environmental Impact Assessment Board. In his response Thompson stated he would let the ministry know when the team was ready to “move forward” to meet the EAB. According to the FOI request, there appears to have been no further correspondence in mor than a year regarding any plans to mitigate what experts believe may be a devastating impact on the environment in the area.
At a recent meeting in Bodden Town to talk with potential workers for the development, Thompson confirmed to CNS that there were no plans at present to do a full scale EIA on phase one, which is a 140-bed hospital. Since then and following on from the correspondence between government and Thompson, CNS has learned that a significant amount of the clearance was undertaken on land still owned by local developer and investor, Joseph Imparato.
It is understood that he has plans to develop a resort and supporting infrastructure on the land around the hospital site to take advantage of what is expected to be an influx of people that will eventually work and visit the Health City. The DoE and the National Trust have both confirmed that the developer did not contact either organisation to assist, at the very least, in the rescue of important plant species before the clearance.
National Trust chair Carla Reid told CNS last week that when she called Thompson about the possibility of at least rescuing orchids and other critical plants from the site, he confirmed that the majority of clearance in the area so far has been undertaken by Imparato. He stated, however, that he would be willing to allow the Trust onto the hospital site in the coming weeks to remove some important species ahead of plans to clear that area in preparation for the start of construction.
This once undisturbed area of unique habitat will be transformed over the coming years as a result of the hospital project and the proposed resort. Aside from the myriad different species in the area, many of which are endangered, that are now under threat, the site is relatively close to the reserve set aside for the Blue Iguana Recovery Programme and was the type of habitat that those iguanas returned to the wild could have colonized.
Speaking to a Canadian environmental journalist this summer, Fred Burton said that not even counting the iguanas, this land is important shrubbery that contains hundreds of rare and threatened species. “A few weeks is all it will take to destroy it all and cover it with concrete,” the local conservation expert stated.
See e-mail correspondence released by the ministry over the clearance below.
Blog entry on blue iguanas on Radio Canada by environmental journalist visiting the Blue Iguana Recovery Programme at the time of the clearance on the Shetty/Imparato site.
|Shetty Hospital - Land Clearing (emails).pdf||1.06 MB|
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