Recent events affecting the environment of the Nature Isle are a bit disturbing, to say the least, and further confirm our view that the majority of Dominicans do not care enough about the environment.
Firstly, where is the outrage at the announcement that the Government of Dominica is considering the construction of a 6.6-kilometre (4.1 miles) tram to take thousands of cruise tourists up to the world-famous Boiling Lake?
Not a sound was heard, not a funeral note about the possible death of the Morne Trois Piton National Park. Maybe the silence was due to the audacity of the idea itself; maybe the lack of reaction was due to the fact that Dominicans have become numb to crazy decisions such as the alleged kidnapping of Mehul Choksi; maybe Dominicans concluded that the Boiling Lake tram idea was just another attempt by the government at distracting public criticism.
Perhaps the silence was due to the source of the information; it came from an unusual website – the Associate Times with the headline “Dominica all set to construct world’s longest detachable monocable cable car with 6.6 km length” and quoted Denise Charles, the tourism minister, not Roosevelt Skerrit, the head of government who habitually makes such announcements on issues such as a multi-million-dollar tram.
“Visitors who are unable to hike the trail to the boiling lake would be able to use the cable car in return would be much faster than the six-hour hike,” said the Times quoting Charles.
But whoever came up with that idea should know that a loud constant clump-clump-clump of a moving tram and the constant humming sound of large generators is anathema to the image and purpose of the UNESCO World Heritage site; the Boiling Lake is a major attraction in the Morne Trois Piton National Park.
In fact, if the planned tram goes ahead, UNESCO would, without hesitation, delete Dominica from the list of world heritage sites and the resultant bad publicity would be a nightmare for officials entrusted with the responsibility of promoting Dominica’s only tourism product- nature in its purest form.
In fact, two decades ago UNESCO made it abundantly clear that it disapproves of the proposal to build a tram even in close proximity to the World Heritage site to take thousands of cruise passengers to one of the most sensitive and potentially dangerous areas in Dominica.
“At its twenty-second session, the Bureau was informed of a cable car construction project that would traverse this Park, proposed by a private individual concerned with tourism development. The feasibility of the project was questionable due to the heavy rains, high winds and the steep terrain that characterises this site,” UNESCO said on the webpage whc.unesco.org/en/soc/2309/
The United Nations institution added: “The Bureau noted that construction of such major access facilities was not consistent with the management plan of the Park and agreed with IUCN that the Dominican authorities need to exercise great caution when evaluating the feasibility of this proposal”.
The 1989 plan was eventually scrapped and the 2022 plan should suffer the same fate.
But other issues surfaced recently that clearly indicate that the people of Dominica may love the idea of Dominica’s prestige of being popularly known as the Nature Island of the Caribbean but they are not willing to fight or even break a sweat to maintain that name.
For instance, thanks to Tyrone “Blessings” Anthony, a resident of St. Joseph and frequent caller to Dominican talk shows, we learned that a construction company had dumped large quantities of steel and concrete on the banks of the Layou River.
Again, there was no national outrage, no statement by the ministry for the environment on conducting an investigation and punishing the perpetrators of this evil act.
Before that incident, we also learned that a company had traversed the Morne Trois Piton National Park to extract tarish and that action was having a serious impact on the Emerald Pool, one of Dominica’s best-known tourist sites. Here’s what a forestry official wrote about the incident.
“Upon entering the site, I noticed a huge scar in the area which was previously covered with vegetation now completely exposed. I was shocked and at a loss for words knowing that there was no discussion or decision to any excavation of Tarish or road… since it was known that such activity would negatively affect the pool which has tributaries in the vicinity of the quarry site,” wrote a forestry official on 6 May 2022 in a memorandum that was leaked to the public via social media. “One of the outstanding universal values of the Morne Trois Piton National Park Heritage site is its hydrological characteristics which manifested in the Emerald Pool and its associated tributaries. This blatant disregard for the national patrimony should not go unanswered.”
Again, there were neither statements of condemnation from the ministry responsible for the environment nor threats to punish the people responsible for degrading the environment of Nature Island.
But we are not surprised.
As we mentioned earlier, many environmentalists continue to be puzzled by the Government of Dominica’s, as well as civil society’s, nonchalant attitude towards World Environment Day that was observed the world over last Sunday, 5 June 2022.
The theme for WED 2022, “Only One Earth”, (Only One Nature Island?) is very relevant to Dominica after the battering it received from Hurricane Maria on 18 September 2017 and as we begin another above-average hurricane season on 1 June 2022.
World Environment Day (WED) is a United-Nations-led global event; it is the single largest celebration of the environment each year and is celebrated by thousands of communities around the world- except in Dominica- the Nature Isle.