By Elesha George
The government agency responsible for monitoring and supervising work within the more than 2,000-acre Special Economic Zone (SEZ) has remained dreadfully mum on allegations of unauthorised dredging taking place at Crabbs Peninsula.
Developer, Yida Zhang was permitted to begin Phase One of the $2 billion project at Crabb’s Peninsula in 2017, after a second Environmental Impact Assessment had been approved by the Development Control Authority (DCA).
As part of Phase One, the developer will construct two artificial beaches on the coastline using sand that it should have dredged from a channel off shore in 2019.
However, while permission was given in principle to build those beaches, it would seem that the developer has started the work without following proper procedure, which would require him to first apply for permission to dredge and to present an assessment for the area to be dredged.
That activity must then be monitored by the Fisheries Division, the DCA, the Port Authority or the Antigua and Barbuda Department for Marine Services (ADOMS).
On Sunday, video footage showed dredging instruments in operation, raising questions about who authorised this activity.
The Port Authority is one of three agencies responsible for supervising dredging work on the island, however, Port Manager Darwin Telemaque told Observer that he was not aware that any permission was granted to the developer to dredge the area.
On the weekend, Chief Environment Officer, Diann Black-Layne and Senior Fisheries Officer, Tricia Lovell also denied having knowledge of any recently authorized dredging work taking place.
DCA, which is the ultimate decision maker for these types of developments has made no comment on the matter since video footage emerged on Sunday.
To date, all, except the DCA have commented on the matter and, on Thursday, the Chief Environment Officer called on that agency to take up its reporting responsibility. After making several calls and WhatsApp messages, Observer has not been able to obtain any formal statement from Fredrick Southwell — the Town & Country Planner at DCA — on the recent dredging activity.
Activists are concerned that this may be yet another instance of developer Yida Zhang ignoring the procedures outlined in law to push forward with the $2 billion development.
The developer has been flagged numerous times since 2015 for starting work without lawful authorization. No fines or penalties have ever been levied against them and the government, on occasion, has made arrangements to override environmental and physical planning laws to allow the project to continue.