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Environmental groups protest EWA green light

Environment 08 May, 2023 Follow News

EWA road sign

Both The National Trust for the Cayman Islands and Protect Our Future Cayman believe Cayman is making a huge mistake in continuing with the construction of the East-West Arterial Road without a proper Environmental Impact Study.

In a release, the POF - a group of environmentally-minded students pro sustainable development – said it was saddened and disappointed at Parliament’s passing of a motion to begin the extension of the EWA without an EIA.

“Systems and laws have been put into place to allow for sustainable development in Cayman in order to protect our future,” they said. “These systems were established by the National Conservation Council and their undertaking of EIAs. However, these systems are being ignored by Parliament’s Motion.”

If passed, this road will set a frightening precedent for future development in Cayman in which the government doesn’t follow the necessary recommendations at the expense of the environment, they worried.

“As a youth-led environmental organisation, we urge our government leaders to complete the Environmental Impact Assessment before moving forward with any development, especially a road which will impact so many ecosystems,” they said.

Grand Cayman’s Central Mangrove Wetlands, the Mastic Reserve, the Meagre Bay Pond, the Lower Valley and North Sound freshwater lenses are all at risk with the EWA development.

With the extension of the EWA road that PACT has suggested to begin without the EIA, the Lower Valley and North Sound freshwater lenses will be impacted, causing more flooding for residents while also jeopardising valuable freshwater resources, the POF group said, adding the potential impact could cause “catastrophic damage”.

They called for the government to look at alternative options, including better public transportation and buses for all schools, including private.

“Options such as this - creating and implementing a bus route for private schools - will actually contribute towards fixing the traffic problem, without spending millions of dollars, and focusing on projects which are not a priority for the entire nation, such as this Extension,” they stated.

The National Trust for the Cayman Islands which protects the natural and cultural heritage of the Islands for the people of Cayman said in keeping with this mandate, they believed that large infrastructure projects that have the potential to permanently alter the islands’ environment should be done “in the right way”.

“The recent private members motion in Parliament regarding the East-West Arterial Extension is concerning for its desire to contravene the National Conservation Act,” they stated. “On a project of the scale of the East-West Arterial Extension it is an international best practice to do an Environmental Impact Assessment to better understand the implications of the project before commencing.”

Without a proper assessment, the National Trust said there was the risk of impacts from the disruption of any number of natural processes and stated, given their mandate, they had to advocate for sustainable development that looked to reduce the impact of projects on the environment and the community.

“For this reason, we believe that it is a mistake to begin construction this road without completing an Environmental Impact Assessment. Rushing this process risks impairing permanent negative impacts on the people of Cayman without giving them the opportunity to weigh them against the potential benefits,” they said.

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