DoE director calls for ‘maturity’ in development

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Gina Ebanks-Petrie on Radio Cayman’s Talk Today

GEORGE TOWN, Cayman Islands (CNS) –  The Cayman Islands must take a more mature approach to the country’s development goals and consider the environment rather than just the financial benefits of development and put the best interests of everyone here first, the director of the Department of Environment has said. The apparent short-term profits will easily be lost in the long run as a result of climate change, which is already becoming apparent here in the Cayman Islands.

Gina Ebanks-Petrie has warned that Cayman has very little room to make big environmental mistakes, such as removing acres of mangroves for development. Because it is so small, any loss of natural diversity is difficult to replace.

Appearing on Radio Cayman earlier this month, just after the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP26) closed in Glasgow, the DoE director noted the increasing evidence that climate change is impacting these islands and said it has been frustrating for her department that advice given by technical experts about how to mitigate the impact often goes ignored.

From coral bleaching to the rising tides that are increasing flooding through the local drainage system, climate change is already having a detrimental impact on this jurisdiction.

“We are already beginning to see in the natural world… evidence of climate change… here in Cayman,” she said, as she noted various incidences of coral bleaching. “When we have periods of high tides, we see ground water which is tidally influenced beginning to bubble up”.

Ebanks-Petrie further noted that “beach erosion is being exacerbated by climate change… and the inability of some of our beaches to have their normal cycle of recovery”.

However, she said that development has played a part in the beach erosion and Cayman must take a more mature approach to the decisions it makes about development, and it is time to embrace a more long term view. As climate change and the damage to the environment are linked, the time has come for Cayman to seriously consider the environment in all of is future development decisions.

“When we make decisions, we need to weigh everything in the balance and not just look at opportunities from a financial perspective. Even things that appear to be a positive may not end up being that way,” she said, as she called for a closer look at the wider parameters of development proposals and how real the claimed benefits are for Caymanians.

She explained the need to retain our natural environment as part of our future resiliency, given the services things like seas grass and wetlands can provide, from sequestering carbon to providing nurseries for marine life.

“We have very little room to make big mistakes. There is not a lot of room to self-correct so when we make decisions to clear acres and acres of mangrove… we can’t go behind ourselves like they did in Florida in the Everglades, where they spent billions of dollars to restore that natural ecosystem,” she said.

– Originally published by Cayman News on November 22, 2021 

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