As construction work is set to soon commence on the Six Senses hotel in Saint David, the lead consultant for the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) said her company takes “no responsibility or burden for any failure to implement the best practices in developing the project.”
Range Developments has been preparing the site amidst public concerns of destruction to the environment and eco-systems in the area.
Last Thursday (August 06), Hon Oliver Joseph announced that the Physical Planning Authority has given its approval for construction of the US$100 million hotel in La Sagesse, carded to begin in September 2020. In recent times, residents have complained of being denied access to the beach in that area. However, Joseph reminds that all beaches are public spaces and nationals must have access to them. He said the government is prepared to hold discussions with persons who have been denied access. Joseph, who is the Parliamentary Representative for the constituency, informed that the EIA for the area was done for Range Developments by Dr Valma Jessamy of JECO Caribbean Inc.
“JECO Caribbean has not seen the final design concepts for any of the applications or representations that may have been made to the Physical Planning Authority (PPA). We are not privy to any of the communications that may have happened between the PPA and the Range Development. We have not been retained by the developer to guide the implementation of the best practices that were recommended for the project.” Therefore, she said “We take no responsibility or burden for any failure to implement the best practices in developing the project.” She cited that a shortcoming in Grenada is that there is no mechanism to ensure the implementation of best practices, as recommended by an EIA. Therefore, an EIA “becomes a paper exercise.” Thus, she noted that it is irresponsible for anyone to pass the obligation of environmental protection to the EIA, which is a prediction or assessment.
Amidst the public concerns and complaints and the Minister publicly linking her to the project, Dr Jessamy held a media conference last Friday (August 07) to explain her company’s involvement and to protect the legacy of her company, which has been operating for more than 25 years. She said the Minister was the first to publicly link her to the project but over the past months she had been responding to email queries including from the Willie Redhead Foundation. As the lead environmental consultant of JECO Caribbean, Dr Jessamy said in April 2019, her services were retained by Range Developments to conduct an EIA of a proposed plan for a hotel development project to be done in two phases. The Six Senses hotel is to be constructed in phase one, she said. Using best practices from April to June 2019, Dr Jessamy said JECO Caribbean conducted a detailed ecological site survey and all the plant species in the proposed project location were catalogued by Plant Technologist Dean Jules. The study also looked at the flora and fauna and hydro geological surveys using an environmental specialist probe to assess soil profile and determine the extent of the wetland system. This, she said is different to the geotechnical investigation that someone will do to inform of a business design.
“When an environmentalist subsoil probe is used, it allows us to get an undistributed profile of the area and we use it to answer environmental questions about the site,” Dr Jessamy clarified. Regarding concerns for the cutting down of the mangroves and displacement of species, she said it was not her recommendation for clear cutting of the site or removal of mangroves. However, the EIA recommended selective removal and the collection of juveniles to be placed in a nursery for replanting. Additionally, the Lead Consultant said detailed community surveys were done where they got information from the community about their economic socio status, use of the area, how a project will affect their livelihood, their environmental concerns and historical information. This information, she said, was fed into the recommendations to the developers; the first of which was the need for public consultation.
Dr Jessamy stressed that it is not the role of the consultant to bring the community together, unless asked to be a part of a consultation to explain information. Other recommendations included having a construction environmental management plan and an overall environmental management and monitoring plan, she noted. Once the Assessment was completed, the draft report was given to the developers, “and I assume in order for them to get full planning permission to implement, they had submitted that document to the competent authority, which is the Land Control Development Authority through the Physical Planning Unit.” She added, “it is the competent Authority and not the EIA or the consultant who has overall responsibility for guiding the implementation of a project.”
The Executive Director of JECO Caribbean said Range Developments has good intentions and her company is willing to continue working with them to correct mistakes and ensure they are guided by sound environmental best practices