THE Saint Lucia National Trust is preparing for a major showdown with the government over a proposal to establish a dolphin park at Pigeon Island.
SLNT’s Director, BishnuTulsie, has promised to do whatever he could within the confines of the law to oppose such facility.
“The mandate from our members is very clear and unambiguous. We must do everything that we can to prevent both the facility at Pigeon Island and anywhere else on the island. How far we go will be a function of how far the developer is prepared to go because we’ve got to meet him (developer) at every corner,” Tulsie said at a press conference Thursday.
He added: “If a decision is taken and that decision is taken within the law and it’s a correct decision, then you cannot challenge it in court because it is taken as a legally-correct decision. However, we have some difficulties seeing the path to a legally-correct decision. But if somehow the government could find one, then there is very little we can do. At the end of the day, the best place for this to be prosecuted is in the court of public opinion.”
A furor erupted days ago when the dolphinarium proposal became public as St. Lucians took to the media to express their views. The outcry was intense at last Saturday’s quarterly meeting of the Trust where nearly 300 people, including Trust members, expressed disapproval of the project.
Following the meeting, members gave the organization’s executive three clear mandates to act on, namely not to allow a dolphin facility at Pigeon Island, advocate against a dolphin park anywhere in the country and for the Trust to explore all options available to it to ensure that options one and two were achieved.
“The mandates from our members are very clear and not subjected to various interpretations. As an organization, that is the approach we are required to take as we approach this matter,” Tulsie said.
Tulsie said the proposed dolphin park would take up 1.5 acres of sea and landwards 230 feet on either side, meaning that the site would cut into the hillside past the trail going to Fort Rodney and compromise the historical Josset’s House and the old cemetery. The coral reef in the north, which he referred to as “the most diverse coral reef in the north”, would be compromised.
“The waste from the dolphin facility would stifle the reef and kill it. Diving would be compromised and other livelihoods and businesses,” noted Tulsie.
Government and the Trust are yet to meet to discuss the dolphin proposal and while the Trust has asked for a meeting, it has not received a response, Tulsie said.
Tulsie was also concerned that government might ignore the growing opposition to the dolphin facility proposal and give approval.
“There is an application for approval in principle. We have raised objections and the Prime Minister has responded by saying that as far as he was concerned the decision had already been taken. The Prime Minister is the head of the Executive (and) the decision to proceed would have to be (that) of the Development Control Authority (DCA). We cannot say at this time that the DCA will approve it. We do not know if the Prime Minister can influence the decision of the DCA but it will be for the DCA to grant the approval,” Tulsie said.
He added that there was no application for a development but an application for approval in principle, which basically means that the DCA had looked at the idea of a dolphin facility at Pigeon Island and thought it was a good idea.
The Trust is also faced with a proposal from a developer to link the Maria Islands Nature Reserve to the mainland in Vieux Fort. However, Tulsie did not say much on that matter at press conference but noted that the obstacles the Trust faced with the dolphinarium proposal were similar to that of the causeway proposal except that the impact was different.
“It is unfortunate that an organization like the National Trust is forced to communicate with government through the media. It is really an unfortunate state of affairs,” Tulsie said.
Repeated calls to the Prime Minister’s Office for comment yesterday were unsuccessful.