Opinion Editorial by Kim Smith, Executive Director, BEST

Bermuda is at a crossroads when it comes to protecting our environment for our future generations. Overseas trips by government ministers where they promote Bermuda’s “environmental leadership” contrast sharply with our present reality, where environmental protection policies are often sidelined for short-term economic gains.

The Government’s stance on the environment seems to be that it is more of a nuisance to be managed, rather than a precious resource to be stewarded. This short-sighted perspective is resulting in an increasing threat, especially to our most important natural resources. Previous governments were not better, but that is a poor excuse for failing now. The world has changed and Bermuda and Bermudians want our government to provide the needed environmental leadership.

For six years, we have been talking about restricting single-use plastics, yet still Bermuda does not have legislation to make this happen! This is particularly shameful given that many countries around the world, including islands in the Caribbean, introduced such legislation years ago. The Beyond Plastic Bermuda campaign has been working in the community for almost three years to support the Government’s promised ban, covering all related expenses for the campaign thanks to generous donations by local community champions, but there is no sign of actual government support.

There isn’t even mandatory recycling in Bermuda for aluminium and tin. There is little or no recycling in government offices and no recycling in our national parks. We lag behind most of the developed world that introduced effective recycling decades ago. At a minimum, we want our government to lead by example.

In July 2021, only two months after we were shown the design plans for a special development order application for the Fairmont Southampton, a change to the legislation surrounding the process for approving SDOs was proposed by the Minister of Home Affairs, Walter Roban, giving him the right to single-handedly approve any SDO without having it debated in the House of Assembly.

Of note, it was in 2011 when the same minister argued the importance for having an SDO debated in the House; the complete opposite position! Interestingly, and coincidentally, this was the same time as the Tucker’s Point SDO — another example of the “guardrails”, originally put in place to protect our environment, being systematically removed. The minister went on to approve that SDO, against the recommendations of the local experts in the planning department and on the Development Applications Board.

In late 2022, the minister responsible for parks, Lieutenant-Colonel David Burch, took the significant step of suspending the National Parks Commission. This body was established by law to provide expert advice to the minister on matters affecting the conservation and management of the parks and nature reserves within our national parks system. Finally, in 2024 the commission was reinstated, although installing a sitting MP, Zane DeSilva, as the chairman. Mr DeSilva is a prominent developer on the island, which many feel makes a mockery of his oversight on the commission.

There have been no improvements to our fisheries protections, despite years of talking about the deficiencies. It is common knowledge that the department is under-resourced and yet we are being told that it will be tasked with the management of additional legislation and oversight responsibilities if, or when, the much discussed Bermuda Ocean Prosperity Programme is adopted.

Read more here: https://www.royalgazette.com/opinion-writer/opinion/article/20240607/environmental-smoke-and-mirrors/