Exuma Marine Park Development Might Be Approved

NASSAU — Environmentalists are angry that the Bahamas government is leaning toward approving a request by a billionaire philanthropist and Muslim spiritual leader to develop his private island inside a marine park.

The Aga Khan wants to dredge two channels around Bell Island within the Exuma Cays to accommodate mega yachts, service barges and up to 20 boats in an inland marina.

The project would require the dredging of nine acres of seabed in the Bahamas’ oldest state park, as well as the excavation of five acres on land.

The park is known for its pristine environment and police fine locals and tourists and confiscate their boats if they are found fishing, camping or anchoring in protected areas.

However, the wealthy owners of 11 private islands within the park – among them actor Johnny Depp – can seek permission to develop their islands. Most construction has taken place on the islands themselves.

The Aga Khan’s plans call for one 14-foot-deep channel that would be 80 feet across and another channel 12 feet deep and 100 feet wide.