(CNS): A landowner clearing land on Selkirk Drive, Red Bay, reportedly ignored at least two notices from the Department of the Environment to stop removing mangroves. Meanwhile, Alden McLaughlin, the outgoing prime minister fighting to retain the constituency, has said the government cannot deny the owner the right to develop it, even though his administration passed the law to protect the mangroves. The cleanup work has been going on for several days under the radar, but a local NGO focused on mangrove protection learned about the cleanup and drew public attention to the latest in a long list of illegal mangrove removal.
The Mangrove Rangers contacted CNS yesterday with photos and information they had gathered at the site. CNS was able to confirm that the DoE has issued warnings to the owner and the construction company under the National Conservation Act, which now includes a species conservation. mangrove plan. This gives the department the powers to issue arrest notices, and if prosecuted and convicted, the perpetrators can be fined CI $ 500,000 or even go to jail for up to four years.
In the past, landowners who had mechanically cleared the land without the required planning permission had suffered little consequence, at most a small fine after the fact. Most of the time, the Central Planning Authority goes on to grant future development requests on the cleared land. And while there is now the possibility of a hefty fine, there is little that can be done to save the mangroves that have already been destroyed by those who defy any direction to stop.
The Department of Energy’s power to enforce the law in this case was directly undermined when McLaughlin responded to the Mangrove Rangers saying that most of Red Bay and Prospect were once mangroves, which were cleared to make way for houses in those who are now living their constituents. “The government cannot simply take away the right of a person to develop his own land according to his zoning without paying compensation,” he told the Rangers in an email.
The mangrove plan provides a route for cleanup through the law, but does not exempt private owners from going through the necessary permitting process.
Martin Keeley, the founder of the Rangers and renowned expert and advocate for the preservation of mangroves, told CNS that the NGO has been working hard since the plan was adopted by the Cabinet and published to obtain the details of the conservation plan of species in the hands of developers and construction companies. He said there is no excuse for any of them to ignore it now, a year after its implementation.
“Once again, a developer cleared the mangroves without any planning permission,” he said. “The general idea that mangroves can be cleaned without consequences prevails, as does the arrogant attitude towards the law and the true value of the mangrove ecosystem. It’s time for this to stop. “
CNS has since learned that there are no plans to develop this land and that the owner and landscaper who removed the mangroves were trying to clear the site of debris and did not know they needed a permit. The landscaper told CNS that when they received the stop notice from the DoE yesterday, they stopped the work and that now they are going to do what they can to correct their mistake under the direction of the DoE.
Keeley told CNS that anyone cleaning mangroves is now being watched, and while developers may not care what they are doing, the public is. “There is a greater awareness among the Caymans about the importance of the mangroves and people are watching. The Mangrove Rangers will continue to monitor the works for violations of the Species Conservation Plan, ”he added.
By the 2021 general election, issues related to the environment and conservation are finally reaching the campaign stage and Unity government incumbents are being asked questions about overdevelopment and who really benefits from it, but they haven’t found any answer yet.
Anyone who has detected a suspected violation of the mangrove policy can contact them at
923-9000 or [email protected]