April 11, 2021

Cayman: More illegal mangrove clearing

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An illegal mangrove clearing in Red Bay, the home district of Premier Alden McLaughlin, was brought to the attention of the Mangrove Rangers Wednesday afternoon.

Clearing work was ongoing when a ranger visited the site Wednesday, despite two cease-and-desist orders that had already been issued by the Department of Environment. One order has been issued to the construction company and another to the land owner.

A DoE officer confirmed the works at the end of Selkirk Drive and Abbey Way had not been granted planning permission. The illegal clearing is another example of a brazen violation of the Species Conservation Plan for Mangroves, which took effect in April 2020.

That plan establishes, “mangroves may not be taken, meaning they may not be killed, collected, destroyed, damaged, or harmed,” unless planning permission has been granted.

When asked about the site, Premier McLaughlin said the land is private and government cannot deny the right to develop private land.

“I think people forget that the whole of Red Bay and most of Prospect was like that when I was a boy 50 years ago. A lot of mangroves were cleared to make way for the land our houses currently sit on,” McLaughlin wrote.

“Government can’t simply take away a person’s right to develop their own land in accordance with its zoning without paying compensation.”

The Species Conservation Plan for Mangroves, however, does not specify exemptions for private landowners and planning permission must still be acquired before landowners may clear mangrove habitat. Mangrove Rangers founder Martin Keeley decried the “piratical attitude” of the construction industry with regard to the islands’ planning and environment laws.

“It’s just about a year since the Species Conservation Plan for Mangroves became Law. We have distributed the law extensively to those in the development, landscaping and construction industries and so there is no excuse for this kind of illegal clearing,” he said.

“Once again, the developer has gone in and cleared the mangroves with no, zero, planning permission. The next part of the plan will be to have a wrist slap by the CPA and a miniscule fine.

“This also seems to be the general attitude pervading the island – that mangroves can be cleared with no consequences and the law cavalierly broken. Knowing as we do the true value of the mangrove ecosystem, it is time for this illegal process to stop.”

As construction projects accelerate ahead of the 14 April election, the Mangrove Rangers will continue to monitor works for violations of the Species Conservation Plan. Anyone who has spotted a suspected violation of the mangrove policy may contact the rangers at 923-9000 or [email protected].

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