13 November, 2007

Environmental Impact

Commitment No 4: Ensure that Environmental Health Impact Assessments are Undertaken before Approving Major Projects and while Developing our Growth Management Strategy. This was the fourth commitment made by the government of Anguilla, like other OT governments which in the year 2001 signed up to an Environmental Charter [link here] .

Dr Mike Pienkowski is the Chairman of the UK Overseas Territories Conservation Forum. He was engaged as a consultant to examine how we were performing under our Charter. He prepared a Report of August 2007. The Report measures performance by the year 2007 of UKOTs and the UK Government in implementing the 2001 Environment Charters. A copy of his 19-page Report can be read [link here]. We return to looking at how Anguilla measured up.

According to the Report, Anguilla is not faring very well in this area. Of the 10+ development projects studied by Dr Pienkowski he concluded that development projects had often been effectively approved prior to any EIA that might be required. He also found that any EIAs that had been produced were inadequate. He could only find two publicly available EIAs. He comments that Anguilla has no list of major potential and actual threats to the environment, detailing threatened species, ecosystems and landscapes prepared prior to proposed development schemes, so that these can be considered in context. Most of the other territories have such protections in place, even if there are problems in practice, or the position is actively under review.

A recent National Geographic survey [link here] points out that small island destinations like ours are just the ones most prone to tourism overkill. A combination of population pressure, climate change, storm damage, invasive species, and now tourism put our environment at risk. Resort development and multiple cruise-ship crowds have ruined St Thomas and Dutch Sint Maarten.

With development of large hotel resorts now rushing forward at breakneck speed the need for EIAs has never been greater. Yet, this is the very time in Anguilla when they are completely ignored by both the Planning Department and the Executive Council. Anguilla can be expected soon to lose the desirable position it has held for so many years as an exclusive, up-market destination. Without environmental impact assessments, we will ruin the very pristine and natural beauty that the most discerning visitors come here to experience in the first place.


  1. Having been at the centre of the negotiation of the environment charters (within Whitehall and with overseas territories governments during 200-01), it may be helpful to provide some background observations.

    A) The intention to develop environment charters agreed with the overseas territories was set out in paragraph 8.15 of the 1999 White Paper: Partnership for Progress and Prosperity - Britain and the Overseas Territories.

    B) Each environment charter contains a commitment by the government of that territory to "Ensure that environmental impact assessments are undertaken before approving major projects..." That phrase "major projects" was a deliberate qualification, recognizing concerns that it would be inappropriate to insist on full EIAs for development projects expected to have only minor environmental impacts. No definition of "major project" was attempted for the good reason that any controversy about whether a project is or is not "major" is part of the normal process of political debate in each territory. As a political rather than a legal document (signed by ministers, not voted for by legislatures), it was no part of each charter to forestall such debate. But the charters were designed as a reminder of fundamental principles and related commitments to which the UK and overseas territory governments subscribed. .

    C) EIAs were not plucked out of thin air as a topic for inclusion in the environment charters. They were taken from the principles of the Rio Declaration, approved on 16 June 1992 at the Rio Earth Summit. Principle 17 is:

    "Environmental impact assessment, as a national instrument, shall be undertaken for proposed activities that are likely to have a significant adverse impact on the environment and are subject to a decision of a competent national authority."

    The environment charters all end with a commitment by both the UK and overseas territory governments to: " Abide by the principles set out in the Rio Declaration on Environment and Development and work towards meeting International Development Targets on the environment. " The latter are now known as the Millennium Development Goals (the 8 MDGs) of which the one on the environment - as formulated in 2001 when the charters were agreed - is "There should be a current national strategy for sustainable development in the process of implementation, in every country by 2005, so as to ensure that current trends in the loss of environmental resources are effectively reversed at both global and national levels by 2015."
    D) There is, however, a widespread misunderstanding about EIAs. Major projects are often developed only after there has been a satisfactory initial feasibility study. If there are economic, social, environmental or technical factors which might make the project impossible or undesirable, these need to be addressed first. However, it is not uncommon for some major projects, especially when driven by powerful political or economic forces, to develop considerable momentum without a proper feasibility study having been undertaken. (A "proper" feasibility study may be lacking when none has been done or not done to an adequate standard or with sufficient detail to be a reliable basis for informed public debate.) In such circumstances, an EIA may be in the uncomfortable position of serving two purposes. First, to provide restrospective evidence that there is no fundamental environmental problem with the project. Second, to guide the detailed planning in order to minimise environmental damage and maximise environmental benefits from the project. These are fundamentally different tasks and pretending that an EIA is part of a feasibility study (or vice versa) does not serve the interests of governments, developers or the public.

    E) EIAs should be completed before major projects are approved because there are often ways in which modifying the design parameters at the start (including precise location and conditions that the developer is required to meet in carrying the project out) can avoid mistakes and improve the long-term value of the project. It is long before discussing the detailed planing and implementation of major projects that any fundamental negative environmental, social, technical or other factors need to be identified and addressed..

    A final observation: EIAs work best when they are regarded as an aid to detailed planning rather than as unwelcome and expensive hurdles that the developer has to negotiate (or avoid). They were included in the charters precisely to encourage this approach.

    IAIN ORR, BioDiplomacy, 12 Otto Close, London SE26 4NA

  2. Dr. Orr is a retired member of the UK Foreign Service. He wrote and negotiated the Environmental Charter that was signed by our present Chief Minister on 26 September 2001. The Charter may be viewed here:

  3. We await the EIA for the Conch Bay development. But the Memorandum of Understanding for the project, which has already been finalised and signed, says that the developer can ignore any parts of the EIA that would require "significant alterations" to the project plan.

    Accordingly, the entire EIA is a waste of time. Why bother? Just so that Government can say it was done?

    Is this a political issue, or one of moral responsibility?

  4. What are we becoming? Are we so blinded by our greed that we want to put our very future at risk?These studies have been conducted wihtout any prejudices to assist us in protecting and preserving our little treasure"Anguilla'
    Why is it then that our elected officials and yes our people would want to stand by idlely and fail to act?There is a worldwide push by other gov'ts and organisations to help protect our fragile environment, so ,are we so arrogant to beleive that we are not part or care to be part of that movement?Is it just plain ignorance or just utter stupidity on our part?What is the purpose of having a island of scholars when we dont have anywhere to live?Why do we not care about this sensitive issue and react to the grim realities facing us before it's too late.
    Do we want to become a desolate boring place like we were during the Brashaw days.We have come a long way form that time and we will continue to progress but only if we protect and preserve what we have to offer the rest of the world.Protection and strict control are our only means of staying ahead of the game.Often times it's those simple easy solutions that are most times so hard to see and sometimes seems so elusive.All hope is not lost yet and there is still time if we start now to work towards this end.Many a time we are skeptical of foreigners and their recomendations and view them and having ulterior motives but this time they truly wants to help so why not accept it?Afterall its practically free for the asking.
    Let foolish pride,arrogance and conceit go and replace it with reason,thought and wisdom to do that which is right and good for all Anguillians.
    Anguilla forever- tranquility wrapped in blue

  5. The danger is not that Anguilla will become the desolate place it was 50 years ago, but an overbuilt, crowded, noisy, glitzy urban area with lots of crime, violence, mental illness, homeless wanderers and waitresses who never smile. These are the things that our visitors come here to escape from. Why would they want to come here if we become a next St. Thomas?

  6. What is interesting about these EIA's is that they seem designed to protect the birds, fish, plants and turtles.

    At the head of that chain should be the important endangered species of human being called the ANGUILLIAN.

    I would like to see and hear a study of the impact of these developments on the vulnerable small indeginous population of the islands.

    signed: endangered native

  7. No, EIAs are not designed just to protect the birds and the fish but to protect the environment we share with them and will leave to those who come after us.

    The above poster advances the Hermann Goering theory that anything is justified, even the destruction of our own environment, because we are being attacked by enemies.

  8. Anguilla, Winner, Caribbean Tourist Board

    Based on official statistics from the Caribbean Tourism Organization covering 2004-2006, Anguilla emerged the undisputable winner of the Crystal Palm Award in the Caribbean Tourist Board category. Through marketing and promotional efforts in the UK market, the Anguilla Tourist Board achieved in 2006 a remarkable growth of 35.8%.


  9. It will be intersting to see if we still maintain that number one position now that the bigger islands have convince us to do one market campaign.

    I can see it now with all the bigger islands riding on the popularity of Anguilla, and the other small territories. WIth Jamaican, Barbados, Trinidad and the others promoted in the North American Market and European while Anguilla and the others a blurb in the papers.

    I wonder if tourism figures were up in the bigger islands if they would have been so willing to do a one marketing campaign?

    This is a bad move move on the part of tourism officials in Anguilla. If it ain't broke, stop tring to break it.
    As for the EIAs, if we were to listen to every expert no development will occur on the island. It's a slippery slope and you have to balance the impact of development on the island as well as allow for positive growth.

    When I can't live in harmony with the turtles, birds and repiles, I suppose I can move to a continent. Anguilla is home for migratory birds, do you hear anyone atlking about bird flu now that we have so many domesticated pets around. So we will have an over run of pet stores.

    By Anguilla mere size, I doubt if it will be viable in 60 years. Lets pray we are not buried under water.

  10. The URL above is incomplete. Here is the correct one: http://tinyurl.com/2mgkys

    Who is the white lady, second from left in the picture, claiming to be Donna Banks?

  11. just like everywhere else when a place is over run by others who are not native to the island,that sense of community spirit will be loss.We as Anguillians are proud and happy people because we are a large extended family.Those on the east are known by those on the west and so forth.When economic growth explodes and we are forces to import foreign labour to meet that demand we looose thta vital tie.We no longer know who our neighbors are we no longer trust those around us ,hence we develop that nonchalant attitude.Who are we smiling with ?people we dont even know ,thats the price we pay for this enormous expansion.We become isolated and strangers in our own land.
    Thats the reality of our situation.There is a coldheartedness to all this and sooner or later we will surely see it manifest its ugly face in our beautiful island.Different cultures have different habits and customs and eventually Anguillians will gradually begin to resent this invasion and obvious defilment of our native culture and way of life.Each of us will belong to his or her own little bubble where we no longer will be our brother's keeper.This is just the tip of the iceburg so beaware less we become like all those other tourist destination being cold and impersonal to the very people who help to provide our high styled standard of living.Thats a price we really dont want to pay,do we?We have to get back to the basics and keep our people informed of what it is that we are offering/selling that other islands are not.Most visitors I have spoken to after their visits have indicated that it was the friendly familylike atmosphere that intrigued them and made them lomg to return -ofcourse the sand water and sun too,if we loose this uniqueness that we are doomed to follow the other island down the road of crime ,homelessness,etc.
    Stop while we are still able to and give our youths a fair chance at survival in the future

  12. With the drop in the value of the Dollar, holidays in the Caribbean have become much cheaper for those in the UK. How much of the 35.8% growth has been caused by that, how much by the interest shown in Anguilla because of the airport expansion, the golf course, the Brad and Jenn drama and all the other hype? How many people decided to come to Anguilla because the noise and traffic in St. Maarten has become so unbearable, or because of the number of murders in Kingston, or because their cousin told them how friendly Anguillians are, or because it's become so expensive here that people think it HAS to be great?

    We really don't know. Perhaps no one really knows. This award is very nice, but it's a faith-based initiative.

  13. The impact of a development on the population should be the first study that should be done.

    The internationalist who kick and scream for the birds and lizards do not blink and eye when exploytative and abusive development robs 'the natives' of their lands, culture and way of life, or even when the entire population of small islands are removed to make way for 'DEVELOPMENT'


    We all know that the fish and turtles are doing fine.

  14. As a member of one Chagos support group and advisor to another, I can say with authority that our concern for the birds and lizards is exceeded only by our concern for the exiled Chagossian refugees themselves. Their reprehensible treatment and victimisation has not been caused by environmentalists.

    The above poster would be well advised to restrict his demagoguery to his own online forum and not infect this blog with the popular prejudices, false claims and promises popularised by the late Reichmarshall Hermann Goering.

  15. Paragraph "D" of the posting under the name of Iain Orr seems to be in full support of the point which the poster is making i.e that before a major development project is undertaken the ECONOMIC,SOCIAL AND ENVIRONMENTAL FACTORS should be addressed first.

    There is something wrong and maybe immoral about a system where the only concern seems to be for the environmental factor.

    This is by no means intended to downplay the importantce of protecting the environment and the habitats of our important wildlife, including unique species of plants and animals.

    Nowhere in any of the postings did anyone say or even suggest that protecting the envitonment is not important and nowhere did anyone say that the "reprehensible treatment and victimization" of the Chargos people was caused by environmentalist.

    It would be interesting for a study to be conducted to report on the social impact these developments are already having and are likely to have on present and future generations of Anguillians and what steps can now be taken to lessen the negative effects.

    Major development pojects and the social impact on our people is a legitimate concern and does not in anyway conflict with our concern for , but in fact complements our concern for the environment.

    Signed: Native Anguillian


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