Former MP Pierre Dupuch urges Bahamians and Government to stop the destruction on Cable Beach
Sometime ago Perry Christie, now Prime Minister of The Bahamas, made a public statement saying that he would encourage the investor, but would always protect Bahamian assets. This statement is profound. But it’s deep rooted in the very fabric of Bahamian psyche.
There are two kinds of assets, one tangible and the other intangible. Most countries have an abundance of tangible assets such as gold, oil, uranium. The Bahamas has none of these. These assets are usually exported outside of the country’s borders.
The Bahamas has a unique asset, beauty. This, oddly enough, is one of the two assets in the world that can be sold and kept to be sold again. It is usually consumed within the country’s borders.
This is why devaluation of a currency works for one and not the other. But this will be explained and examined at some other time.
The beauty of our beaches is one of our most valuable assets. Cable Beach is the jewel of New Providence. It is this island’s most beautiful beach, and its most valuable asset. We must protect it.
For years it remained the playground of the rich and not so rich. Laws were made to protect it. One of the laws laid out was where buildings could be erected. The high water mark was not good enough. The law said that buildings had to be built not less than forty feet behind the “dune line” in Nassau, and more in the Family Islands. This was done to guarantee that there would not be erosion and residents and tourists could forever enjoy the beauty of this breath-taking asset.
When the tourist industry came into full bloom, hotels were built there, but always behind the dune line. And the people welcomed the investment and the investor. But it created conflicts and resentments.
The question was being asked, “How much, if any of our assets had to be given up to accommodate the tourist trade.” I think Senator Rubio of Florida, in addressing the immigration problem in the United States said: “we can’t expect the immigrant to respect and support us if on the one hand we tell them that we’ll give them citizenship, and on the other we say we’re going to deport their grandmother.”
This applies to the Bahamian problem. Investors cannot expect to invest millions of dollars in our country on the one hand, and then on the other destroy our assets, which are our beaches. If they do, they will be hated and resented. We must make this clear to any investor. Invest your money and make a good profit, but do not destroy our assets, our beauty, in the process.
Most investors understand and respect this, and we live in harmony and perfect happiness. But there are others who are greedy and short sighted. One such person was Mr Arison who built the Crystal Palace, and told the Bahamian people that his investment was the greatest thing to ever happen to The Bahamas since sliced bread.
He ignored the dune line; he ignored the high water mark. The Government allowed him to break all the well-established covenants. Some of the Crystal Palace towers were built on the beach. In the morning its shadow ruined the sunshine for tourists on the western side of the beach and in the afternoon threw its shade on the eastern beach and pool deck.
I understand the tower started to sink so retaining walls had to be built and eventually a lagoon and artificial beach with a fortified steel wall was built out into the water to protect the towers. This effectively destroyed the beach, caused extensive erosion of the natural beach, and took away from the Bahamian people and the residents here one of their most prized assets – Cable Beach.
Many people resented Mr Arison and I’m sure that after he had invested so much here he could not figure out why. He’s gone now to spend the rest of time in, I hope, a better place; so are most of the others who aided and abetted him. But the bad mark has been left as his legacy; the beautiful asset had been destroyed.
And then came new hope. BahaMar arrived with a billion dollar investment but most important they were going to implode the offending structures and “restore” the beach. They produced well airbrushed photos of the “restored” beach. The Bahamian people were happy because one of their assets was being returned.
Driving on West Bay Street was a pleasure. Conch shells were being used to decorate the roundabouts, a driveway was named after Hobby Horse Hall, the roads were well constructed and everything seemed so professional. We were impressed and happy. Finally, there was a big investor prepared to keep the Bahamian beauty and, at the same time, make a profit.
We watched with interest and pride as the offending structures came down. But a walk along the beach was revealing. What was being done did not appear to resemble “restoration,” and instead it appeared to be “reclamation.” What was shown on the airbrushed photos did not appear to be happening on the ground.
Boulders were put into the sea and the natural beach that Bahamians have enjoyed for generations was blocked off and filled in, making more property for BahaMar, and less beach. The beach reclamation appeared to be the same as before under Arison, but bigger.
It appears that the Government has leased to BahaMar the beach and the water table. The high water mark, as we knew it, is gone. The land has been extended over the beach and an artificial breakwater with poles to mark the spots were put into the water. This is dangerous, especially for boats passing at night.
This begs a question, who or what Government Agency leased the beach and the seabed? In case they don’t know, the new subdivision Act is supposed to require town meetings for major changes like this. There were no town meetings.
Who’s been fooling who, and was there an act that somebody was involved in? The rat’s starting to smell again!
Yes, Mr. BahaMar, you are spending billions of dollars on your development, but you’ve shot our grandmother, and the people of this country will resent it!