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FREEPORT, Grand Bahama -- The Caribbean Waterbird Census is a region-wide waterbird and wetland monitoring program sponsored by The Society for the Conservation and Study of Caribbean Birds. The goal of this program is to learn more about the distribution, status, and abundance of waterbirds in the Caribbean to improve our conservation planning and management of these beautiful birds and their habitats.
One region-wide count is organized in the winter where everyone counts at the same time during the middle of winter (when birds are most stationary) to get a "snapshot" of waterbird population numbers and habitat use throughout the Caribbean.
An inland pond and a beach were selected as the sites to be monitored as this allows for a wider range of waterbirds to be included in the census. Each site will be visited a total of three times throughout the year.
The second census is planned for March 3rd as this is near to the end of the Migratory period for birds. Persons interested in participating in this very important initiative can call the Rand Nature Centre at 352-5438.
I was very disappointed to have read the comments attributed to Michael Scott in The Nassau Guardian National Review article "The great land giveaway". Putting aside the misleading title for the story, the quotes attributed to Scott seek to suggest that the land, the subject of the Progressive Liberal Party's (PLP) negotiated heads of agreement, was a "gift" to foreigners. Nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, the terms of the deal cannot be objectively characterized as "the greatest land giveaway".
I was mostly disgusted and shocked at Scott's rather shallow characterization of the deal as capable of treating the 350 natives of Mayaguana much like Native Americans being relegated to a reservation. This was utterly silly language which was also unfortunate because it completely misrepresented the intention of the original deal and it perhaps demonstrates the lack of vision and the prospect Mayaguana can have in an economically viable Bahamas by the present leadership of the Hotel Corporation.
The facts of the original agreement
It is untrue and smacks of rather crude political mischief making that the Free National Movement (FNM) will continue to utter a clear falsity that the PLP government conveyed 9,999 acres of Crown land to a foreign entity known as the I-Group in March 2006 in connection with a development at Mayaguana. It is being purported that the present administration has now signed a revised heads of agreement with the I-Group, which has recovered 5,825 acres of the land.
It is so unfortunate that this deliberate untruth is calculated to prey upon the emotive subject of the disposition of Crown land to foreigners for partisan political advantage during this 'election season'.
The truth is that the PLP government led by Perry Christie was unalterably opposed to the sale of this large acreage of Crown land in Mayaguana to the I-Group or any other group of foreigners for large scale development. As a result and after two years of meticulous negotiations, the government entered into a heads of agreement with Mayaguana Island Developers Limited (MID), a joint venture entity owned 50/50 by the government through the Hotel Corporation of The Bahamas (HCB) and the I-Group of Boston headed by Stephen Roy, a wealthy and prominent businessman. The land was to be conveyed to the joint venture company only in stages after certain clear milestones of development were reached. There was no agreement for the wholesale purchase or acquisition of 9,999 acres by the I-Group as is being stated.
The specific purpose of both the heads of agreement and the joint venture agreement, as stated therein, was to encourage and facilitate economic growth and development on Mayaguana so as to attract both Bahamians and non-Bahamians as both investors and residents, leaving no doubt that the land in the development area was to be occupied and used by both Bahamians and non-Bahamians, in that order.
The scale of the anchor project which was envisaged at full build out to total more than an estimated $1.7 billion, obligated the joint venture company to prepare and implement, subject to government's approval, a comprehensive plan for the orderly development on the Island of Mayaguana of a viable community, residential, mixed-use resort, commercial, industrial, social and educational developments, associated utilities, airport, marinas, harbor and related infrastructure and nature parks, which would provide a range of new economic opportunities. It was envisaged that in addition to Mayaguana, the development would also positively and significantly impact the economy of the southeastern Bahamas including Inagua, Acklins, Crooked Island, Long Cay and Ragged Island, indeed all of The Bahamas in general.
Under the terms of the original heads of agreement and joint venture agreement, the following key financial considerations applied:
? The Hotel Corporation and I-Group each owned 50 percent of the shares in the capital of Mayaguana Island Developers Limited.
? In consideration of the transfer of the Crown land to MID and the grant of the concessions to MID as contained in the heads of agreement, the I-Group agreed to contribute the entire capital for the initial project in an amount of not less than $14 million, inclusive of $2 million paid by the I-Group to the government at the signing of the heads of agreement and joint venture agreement.
? In addition, MID was to establish the Mayaguana Community Fund, consisting of not less than $1,250,000 by the end of the fifth year, to be augmented annually by 2.5 percent of the revenues of MID thereafter.
? HCB would receive from MID a fee equal to 10 percent of the gross sales price from the sale of residential lots, and five percent of the gross sales price received for the sale of commercial lots. Similarly, under the management agreement between MID and Mayaguana Management Co. Ltd. (MMC) the same amounts were to be paid to MMC.
? HCB and the I-Group would share 50/50 in the profits of MID.
? I-Group and HCB would work cooperatively to attract other investors and additional capital to implement the overall development plans for Mayaguana.
? MID working in cooperation with the government would arrange financial assistance to encourage Bahamians to acquire homes and settle in Mayaguana.
Land use plan
The I-Group met the cost of preparation of a comprehensive regional land use plan for the island of Mayaguana, which was approved by government and became the property of MID. The regional land use plan made provisions for and shows the following:
a. Permanent wetlands that should be excluded from any activity.
b. Seasonal marshlands that should also not be disturbed
c. Conservation areas that should also not be disturbed, but may be considered for some limited common/public use under stringent conditions.
d. Nature preserves that should be properly managed
e. Agricultural lands
f. Ranch lands
g. Undeveloped lands, including land for expansion of existing settlements
h. Public beaches
i. Areas for development by MID, including golf courses
j. Areas that could be developed by other interested parties
k. Commercial activity areas
l. Light industrial activity area around the airport, and
m. Medical/academic campus
What the project was to be
The initial project which was to be completed within two years from the initial project commencement date was well underway when the PLP left office in May 2007. In fact at that point, the I-Group's expenditure had almost doubled the $14 million estimated for its cost. The initial project included inter alia the following:
? Rehabilitation of 7,000 feet of the existing 11,000-foot runway capable of accommodating international service of Boeing 737 aircraft
? Construction of an adequate new terminal building, security and ancillary facilities to international standards as approved by the Department of Civil Aviation and other authorities
? Construction of a 19-unit boutique resort at North Beach, and layout of a 100-lot single family residential subdivision
? Construction of the Mayaguana Harbour Development at Pirate's Well Creek comprising a basin large enough to accommodate up to 10 recreational sized boat slips, a dredged channel, layout of a 50-lot residential subdivision, and a three-unit villa
? Layout of North Beach East Subdivision consisting of 100 lots and construction of a three-unit villa
? Provision of the necessary public utilities to support the foregoing development
? Community projects consisting of improvements to the Mayaguana Health Clinic, construction of science laboratory at Abraham's Bay School, and a lunch, recreation room and outdoor recreational facilities at Pirate's Well School, layout and commissioning of other community recreational facilities, construction of 15 miles of roads within the development area and provision of potable water to local communities at rates to be agreed with Water and Sewerage Corporation
? Layout of an industrial zone in the vicinity of the airport
? Establishment of repair, technical training and materials processing and recovery facilities in the industrial zone
? Preparation of plans and layout for one golf course and commissioning of a putting green and driving range
? Preparation and layout of an equestrian-themed housing subdivision
? Rehabilitation of Nature Centre & Picnic Area at North Beach close to Curtis Creek
? Reserving an area of not less than 20 acres for a public beach in Curtis Creek area - this beach is to be in addition to traditional access enjoyed by Bahamians on all beaches in Mayaguana
? Obtaining a letter of intent from a third party operator for development of 225-room resort in Mayaguana
? Progress on developing Mayaguana as a port of call for cruise lines
? Establishment of nature preserves at Curtis Creek, Blackwood Point, Booby Cay, Long Cay and Pirate's Well Creek - the preserves shall come under the management of a foundation
What the FNM did
After the FNM came to power in May 2007, it set out to frustrate and put road blocks in the way of the Mayaguana project by stopping certain vital duty-free concessions, which stalled the project in which the I-Group had already invested over $25 million. By early 2008 the recession was setting in. As a consequence the frustrated chairman of the I-Group, Stephen Roy, wrote to the prime minister invoking the provisions of the force majeure/unforseen events and delays clause to slow down the project and revise the business plan because of "the adverse change in economic conditions in financial markets in the United States".
Instead of simply agreeing to revise the business plan and extending the concessions, the Ingraham administration, because it did not wish to honor the terms of the heads of agreement which they found in place, seized the opportunity over three long years to exact a revised agreement out of the I-Group under the guise of getting back some 5,825 acres of Crown land. This revised agreement is less in the public interest in terms of the reduced scope of the project and the outright grant of some 4,000 acres of crown land to a foreign owned company.
An important safeguard in ensuring that the provisions of the heads of agreement, joint venture agreement and management agreement as approved by the PLP administration are fully implemented, is the provision for the government through the Hotel Corporation to appoint directors to the boards of both the joint venture company (MID) and the Mayaguana Management Company (MMC).
Under the terms of the revised heads of agreement, the FNM is allowing this safeguard to fall away. Also as a result of the cancellation of the joint venture and management agreements by the FNM a foreign owned company will now be entitled to the grant of some 4,000 acres of Crown land on Mayaguana, something the PLP would not have done. Regrettably, the scale of the project and its economic impact have been considerably reduced under the terms of the revised heads of agreement.
For the record it should be pointed out that at all material times during the negotiations with the I-Group as well as in the heads of agreement and joint venture agreement, the PLP administration ensured that sufficient Crown land remained available for the expansion of existing communities together with the creation of new communities on the island of Mayaguana. The project itself, the terms of the heads of agreement and joint venture agreement were fully discussed with and agreed upon in town meetings with the people of Mayaguana and with descendants.
The suggestion that the deal would have "people herding together in the interior" is untrue and a rather unfortunate description of the intentions of the joint venture. It is hoped that these facts dispel the misrepresentations printed in the article and that the Bahamian people now have the full benefit of the salient facts surrounding the joint venture development in Mayaguana. It is further hoped that the Bahamian people and all the residents of Mayaguana know that it is the PLP that has always championed their cause and put them first.
o George Smith is a former PLP MP for Exuma, Cabinet minister and chairman of the Hotel Corporation of The Bahamas.
Turks & Caicos - On February 2nd of each year the world celebrates its wetlands. This day marks the signing of the Convention on Wetlands that took place in the Iranian City of Ramsar in 1971.
However, Wetlands Day was not celebrated until 1997. The purpose of this day is to raise awareness and appreciation of the significance of the wetlands and of their contributions to the world ecosystem.
The international theme for World Wetlands Day 2011 is "wetlands and forests - forests for water and wetlands" in celebration of the United Nations International
LOCAL Bird watchers, including members of the Grand Bahama Junior Birding Club, took part in the second annual Caribbean Waterbird Census.
The census is a region-wide waterbird and wetland monitoring effort sponsored by the Society for the Conservation and Study of Caribbean Birds.
The goal is to learn more about the distribution, status, and abundance of waterbirds in the Caribbean, so as to improve conservation planning and management of these birds and their delicate habitats.
Each year, a region-wide count is organised. Every participant counts at the same time during the middle of winter (when birds are most stationary) to get a "snapshot" of waterbird population numbers and habita ...
Oil drilling in The Bahamas will likely generate work for no more than a handful of locals, while putting thousands of tourism and commercial fishing jobs at risk, reEarth president Sam Duncombe warned.
Addressing The College of The Bahamas' (COB) Inaugural Environmental Law and Policy Conference, Duncombe said most oil industry jobs tend to be temporary and mostly-reserved for foreigners - making the domestic benefits minimal, while the potential threat to established and profitable industries remains very high.
"The majority of jobs created by the offshore oil and gas industry during the construction phase are short term, and most of these jobs go to people from outside the region, whereas the thousands of jobs dependent on the commercial fishing industry and tourism are long term and based on a sustainable resource," she said.
"Pollutants from the offshore oil industry have significant adverse effects on fish stocks' ability to produce healthy eggs and larvae, and therefore on the sustainability of the fishing industry. The Bahamas' multimillion-dollar tourism industry is dependent on healthy and unspoiled coastal waters. Toxic pollutants emitted by the offshore oil industry can destroy wetlands, wildlife and contaminate the water."
Duncombe added that any oil that may be discovered in Bahamian waters will be destined for the U.S. market, and therefore will not result in lower gas or electricity prices for Bahamians either. According to the veteran environmental advocate, drilling for oil and gas creates pollution in a variety of forms, all of which affect marine biological diversity.
"A single exploratory well dumps approximately 25,000 pounds of toxic metals into the ocean. Routine offshore drilling operations dump thousands of pounds of drilling mud into the ocean, which contain such toxic heavy metals as lead, chromium and mercury, as well as potent carcinogens like toluene, benzene, and xylene," she said.
"A single offshore rig emits daily the same amount of air pollution as 7,000 cars driving 50 miles.
Pile drivers are used to drive steel columns into the seabed. Their threat to marine animals is relentless. The noise and vibrations caused by the punishing blows of these industrial giants has been shown to drown out communication between marine mammals."
In recent years, there have been several applications for permits to drill for oil in Bahamian waters. Before coming to office, the governing Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) promised to hold a national referendum on oil exploration before allowing any of the projects to go forward. However, following their successful 2012 election bid, the PLP changed their position, announcing that exploratory wells would be allowed in an effort to discover if there are any oil reserves in Bahamian territory before a public vote is held.
Minister of the Environment Kenred Dorsett has announced that the government is currently considering five draft bills and regulations that would govern petroleum exploration and extraction.
Duncombe called on the minister to share the proposed laws with the public and consider feedback before bringing them to Parliament for debate.
The developers of the multi-billion-dollar Baha Mar project handed the newly realigned West Bay Street over to government officials yesterday, marking a historic shift in the way people travel along the western portion of New Providence.
The 1.25-mile stretch of road will divert traffic south of Baha Mar as it now looks to begin the second phase of the mega-resort.
Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham congratulated Bahamian workers and Baha Mar on the accomplishment at the handover ceremony yesterday.
"I am especially proud of the first class workmanship demonstrated by those Bahamian companies already engaged in the construction of ancillary facilties for the project and in particular in the construction and landscape of this new road and the new Commercial Village," said Ingraham.
"They have produced first world work and they have completed their contracted projects on time. Their success, I believe, bodes well for the success of Bahamian companies bidding on components of the core project."
Along with gardens, wide sidewalks and walking and jogging paths, the road also provides breathtaking views of the Hobby Horse Hall Pond and the surrounding wetlands, which many Bahamians have never seen.
Along the road, the broken shards of more than 140,000 conch shells decorate the five roundabouts that connect the four-lane thoroughfare.
Minister of Works Neko Grant said the street markings and lighting on the road are temporary, but permanent fixtures should be installed by the middle of January next year.
The road and the new Commercial Village where a police and fire station, Scotiabank, Commonwealth Bank and Fidelity Bank will now be located took 600 workers just over nine months to complete.
Baha Mar officials estimate that the company spent in excess of $100 million constructing the new corridor and buildings.
Baha Mar officials are also spending $500,000 on a temporary Pompey Village near the Sheraton Resort, to accommodate a straw market, daiquiri stand and several kiosks.
The new West Bay Street is being connected to John F. Kennedy Drive by a new road that will run from the intersection of JFK and Gladstone Road to the area of the former site of the Cable Beach police station.
Thanking Baha Mar Chairman and CEO Sarkis Izmirlian and his family, as well as the China Import Export Bank and the China State Construction Company, the prime minister also expressed his pleasure with the efficient and quick manner in which the road was built.
"In the great enterprise of transforming our capital island we are building on and securing the dreams of many Bahamians.
"This new realigned West Bay Street has provided opportunities for the use of ideas and talents of capable Bahamian technicians and artists, environmentalists and planners and construction professionals," Ingraham said.
"We look forward to more of this in the months and years ahead as the full Baha Mar story is unveiled."
The existing portion of West Bay Street -- from west of Sulgrave Manor and Breezes Resort to the roundabout in front of the Sheraton Resort -- will now be conveyed to Baha Mar by the government for the construction of its 1,000 room casino hotel, 700 room convention hotel, 100,000 square foot casino and 150,000 square foot convention center and related amenities.
RIENDS of the Environment has partnered with Dr Craig Layman and his research team from Florida International University to restore a vital tidal creek and wetland area in Abaco.
Broad Creek, located just south of Marsh Harbour near Camp Abaco has been blocked for more than 30 years after a road was constructed to build the camp.
The restoration project entailed removing a small area of the road, installing culverts to allow water flow under the traffic, and then reforming the road. The team then had to selectively remove mangroves that had encroached into the channel after road construction had taken place.
Kristin Williams, executive director Friends of the Environment, said: "Tidal cr ...
With nearly 60 employees, Sapodilla Estate, a fine dining restaurant located in western New Providence, recently opened up to rave reviews.
Since opening its doors officially on December 27, the restaurant's General Manager Giorgio Bombino said it has received a number of positive comments via social media from customers.
"At Sapodilla Estate, we seek to give our customers an experience that's never been had in The Bahamas before. From the entrance to the moment that you sit at the table, we have truly created a unique experience," he said.
Set back off West Bay Street, just east of Caves Heights, the restaurant offers a menu that includes Italian dishes with a touch of French and Bahamian flavor, and offers a variety of wines.
Sapodilla Estate also features indoor and outdoor elements, including individual cabanas located in the garden area in which diners can choose to eat with just two to a private table. The setting is designed to allow customers to appreciate the natural surroundings.
The property features wetlands, including sights of wildlife. In addition to the dining, Sapodilla Estate plans to host weddings and other events.
"Our goal is to put Sapodilla on the map because we are going to give you the best service. We have a bridal cottage and we host weddings. And in the restaurant, many of the items that we cook are in fact finished on the table," according to Bombino.
Back in July, the restaurant's owner, Elaine Pinder, founder of Bamboo Shack, told Guardian Business that it is the culmination of a four-year project.
At the time, over 1,000 applications were reportedly submitted for positions at the restaurant after an advertisement was placed in local newspapers.
The upscale restaurant, formerly residential property, had undergone major renovations to ensure that the transformation was able to take place. Pinder called it a "labor of love".
"It's based in my old home which I moved out of. I put a whole roof and a whole new structure over everything, I extended the perimeter and enclosed that," she revealed.
"I said to myself, 'Let me make my contribution to tourism'. The building is sort of hidden away from the street, so I think when it opens people are going to be quite surprised."
Bombino said that between security staff and restaurant employees, the establishment now has around 60 employees.
Sapodilla Estate is opened Tuesday to Saturday from 6:00 p.m. - 10:30 p.m.
Global Earth Day gives people a chance every year to reflect on how they can change their lifestyle choices into more sustainable and harmonious ones for the planet on which they live, but that doesn't matter unless they are honored the other 364 days of the year.
Such is the message by two Bahamian artists who are transforming communities and minds through their work and artistic efforts.
On April 22, while Tyrone Ferguson unveiled a new sculpture on the island of New Providence, Antonius Roberts took his message to Eleuthera. The pair celebrated Global Earth Day in the only way they knew how: through sharing their work that takes inspiration from its environment.
Joining his sculptures already on the grounds, Tyrone Ferguson unveiled a new installation at New Providence Community Church. For this artist, who often creates sculptures using repurposed metal and wood, sharing the sculpture and speaking during their Sunday service was a chance to inspire the NPCC community - and beyond - to treasure their surroundings.
"We can make this world and community a better place if we all just put our hands to it," he said. "God said we must use our creativity and imaginations to take care of this earth. When we intentionally put our hands to what God has provided us with, then we can experience what God has given us, we can experience healing and wellness and a closer walk with God."
Indeed part of the decision to install more of his work at NPCC ties into his overall vision to transform the community church grounds into a place where members and visitors alike can find a spiritual connection with nature.
Already NPCC employs a number of recycling programs and considers itself deeply passionate about environmental justice. Such a philosophy has gifted space for sustainable sculptures by Ferguson and fellow collaborator Antonius Roberts on the grounds, including Ferguson's new piece.
At the top of his sculpture sits a globe carried by many hands - traced by NPCC members and cut out by Ferguson - while underneath a doorway sits atop a repurposed bank vault door as a base. Ferguson hopes that the doorway creates a portal for its viewers - that by walking through it, no matter what day of the year, they focus on how to improve the earth.
"The hands hold the globe in a symbolic gesture of us participating in creating the world," he said. "But there's a disconnect here - we speak it, but are we intentionally making the world a better place, not just on Earth Day but beyond?"
"It's going to take all of our hands to do this, it's going to take commitment, time, talent and resources to do this," he continued. "Pulling up a few casuarinas on Earth Day isn't going to cut it; we want to hand off a better community to our children. We need to take it to the next level. We need to celebrate Earth Day 365 days a year."
Doing just that is fellow artist and collaborator Antonius Roberts, whose artistic practice and community building initiatives always repurpose discarded wood to make gorgeous pieces. This Sunday he too unveiled a new sculpture at the Leon Levy Reserve in Governor's Harbour, Eleuthera as part of the One Eleuthera Foundation & Nature Conservancy's celebrations this past weekend which also had the support of the government and the Bahamas National Trust. The sculpture was a male and female figure carved beautifully out of wild Tamarind wood salvaged by the Leon Levy staff after Hurricane Irene.
"I thought it would be a wonderful opportunity to breathe life back into the wood," said Roberts. "It was a spontaneous piece that follows the form, spirit and grain of the wood. My thought is we are stewards of the earth and I thought God has given us domain over this earth in a biblical sense."
Indeed the figures, placed in such an environment as the breathtaking Leon Levy Preserve, create an Edenic atmosphere for visitors to ponder the beauty of nature and the need to preserve it.
The first national park on Eleuthera, the reserve not only acts as an educational resource for visitors but is also a haven for native plant species.
Adding to that environment, says Roberts, is the addition of three new benches in the space as part of his National Bench Program, which works in conjunction with the government's Job Readiness Program and Baha Mar to turn discarded wood from the invasive species of casuarinas into beautiful and practical benches.
But the important aspect of this program is not so much the sustainability of material but of the craftsmen themselves. For the National Bench Program, young men have trained under Roberts in the craft of bench making, giving them vital skills and an awareness of sustainability in their field. The three benches in Eleuthera were made by two young men in high school under the National Bench Program.
"People were able to come and not only celebrate the sculptures we did but the spirit of transformation," said Roberts. "These men were so excited by the program that they would like to set up a bench-making industry on the island of Eleuthera when they return back from college because there is a proliferation of casuarina trees there."
"So for me when we talk about preservation, the reality is we need to talk about sustainability - we need to create opportunities for our people to buy into the whole process of preservation," he continued. "I think it is important for us to work with the schools and engage young people in the process so that they can take ownership and be responsible stewards."
That's just what Roberts aims to do with the National Bench Program. He adds that he was pleasantly surprised to see that over the weekend, Baha Mar had added 15-20 of these benches - made from the discarded wood of casuarinas during the clearing for their development - to their walkway flanking natural wetlands on the new rerouted Cable Beach Strip. The move was an appropriate one given the tone of Sunday.
Rather than be varnished and perfect additions to the environment, Roberts explains that these benches are made to weather over time along with its surroundings.
"They will be properly maintained and treated, but they are meant to grey and age like driftwood so they are part of the environment and landscape instead of just being placed there - they will weather and allow nature to take charge of how they wear," he said.
Overall though, he finds the most significant aspect of the new display at Baha Mar is the work behind them by young hands. Such a practice is a promise for a better, more sustainable future in a rapidly developing world.
"I'm so proud to see these are benches made by young men," he said. "I took them out today to have a look at those, and you should see them beaming with pride. The benches just look wonderful."