HC 846 Sustainability in the Overseas Territories

Written evidence submitted by Turks and Caicos Islands’ Department of Environment and Maritime Affairs

Summary

Turks and Caicos Islands assets for effective sustainable management of natural resources include:

· An extensive Protected Areas network

· Protective legislations including:

o The National Parks Ordinance

o Marine Pollution Ordinance

o Coastal Protection Ordinance

o Fisheries Protection Ordinance

o Planning Ordinance

o Other Legislation

· Significant unspoiled land and wetland resources

Management deficiencies include:

· Inadequate labour resources for adequate enforcement

· Lack of funding for critical scientific research

· Lack of funding for critical scientific monitoring, such as water quality testing

· Lack of political will to implement needed reforms to current development trends

The Extent to which UK Government strategy on the UKOT’s embodies the principles of sustainable development and appropriate trade-offs, environmental protection, social development and economic growth;

1. The Turks and Caicos Islands (TCI) have made great strides towards developing strategies for balancing development with sustainable management of natural resources in recent years. Environmental protections are supported by a well-developed and managed Protected Areas System, in addition to protective laws that provide for effective management of fisheries and other natural resources.

2. Unfortunately, the vast majority of economic growth in TCI has come at the expense of the natural environmental, cultural and social baseline. On the island of Providenciales, the privatization and development of public lands has substantially degraded environmental and cultural resources. Relatively unchecked development practices allowed private interests to exploit natural resources and "externalize" environmental costs without restraint.

3. In 1960, Providenciales had no automobiles, paved roads or airport and a population of 518 people. The vast majority of the land area on the small, 37-square-mile island was public or "Crown" land. Ecosystems were in close to pristine condition and provided ample sustenance for all residents, human and non-human. The people were poor, but not impoverished. The quality of life was very high. Crime was virtually non-existent, and cultural values were well-defined.

4. Today, with the exception of two Protected Areas, virtually all of the land on Providenciales has been privatized and developed for tourism, residential and industrial use. Critical upland and wetland habitats have been cleared, dredged and filled. Marine ecosystems are threatened by pollution and overuse. Fisheries catches are declining. The human population has exponentially increased to approximately 26,000. Illegal immigration and crime are rampant, and younger generations are adopting cultural values from nearby North America.

5. The above-mentioned benchmarks indicate that the pattern of privatization and development of land on Providenciales is not sustainable. The TCI are the current "hot trend" in Caribbean travel destinations, with a branding of "beautiful by nature." However tourism development on Providenciales has been anything but "beautiful by nature," with a steady erosion of ecological values, resulting from on-going land clearance for development. Unless the prevalent development model is altered, the current ecological values that TCI enjoys on the remaining islands will be lost. Ironically, the very aspect of the Islands that attracts tourists in annually record-breaking numbers has been rapidly eroded by its own appeal, paradoxically fueled by a historic paradigm of development that views nature as a resource to be exploited for individual human profit.

How the UK Government is fulfilling its responsibilities to protect biodiversity in the UKOTs;

In recent years, funding available to the Department of Environment and Maritime Affairs (DEMA) has been dramatically reduced, as budget cuts have been implemented.

6. UK has eliminated the Overseas Territories Environment Programme, merging it into the more rigid and restricted Darwin Plus programme that does not necessarily anticipate or address the needs of all of the territories.

7. UK government bodies seem to have become unaware of the role of the United Kingdom Overseas Territories Conservation forum, and have done a great disservice to all UKOTs by writing UKOTCF conference funding out of their budget.

8. UK Government’s cuts to UK conservation bodies active in UKOTs such as Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew and Zoological Society of London mean that work in UKOTs is dependent on UKOT-sourced funding, which is often sourced from UK Government due to UKOTs restricted access to international funding – which means the same funding cut from UK bodies has to be sourced by UKOTs and goes to assist those UK bodies in UKOT work, meaning there is less to spend within UKOTs themselves.

How the UK Government is helping the UKOTs adapt to the impact of climate change;

9. The UK Government is speaking the right language but practice leaves a lot to be desired. Recent developmental approval in TCI by the UK Government during Direct Rule has included some quite potentially destructive proposals. There has been little enforcement in in-filling of wetlands on low-lying islands.

10. Furthermore, the Turks and Caicos Islands currently have a monopoly supplier of electricity that produces electricity exclusively from diesel powered generators. Numerous studies have indicated that due to the excessive cost of electricity generation in TCI, solar and wind technologies are not only economically viable, but offer a less-expensive alternative for private individuals. While the Islands have abundant solar and wind resources, these renewable energies have not been tapped, and are in fact discouraged by current policy. Currently, a home owner or private individual is not allowed to generate their own electricity with renewable technologies. Additionally, there are no plans to implement progressive net metering policies that would greatly reduce the cost of electricity for the average person and have a dramatic impact on the production of greenhouse gasses in TCI.

Whether the recommendations in our 2008 Report, Halting biodiversity loss, on safeguarding biodiversity and practising joined-up government to further conservation have been implemented;

11. These recommendations have not been implemented in TCI. The document is not circulated or referred to in any existing legislative or operational framework.

Whether UK Government strategy on the UKOTs is consistent with the conclusions and commitments on protecting biodiversity reached at the recent United Nations Rio+20 conference;

12. TCI has currently not had any active policy to implement strategies arising from that Conference.

How weaknesses in civil society and governance in the UKOTs impact on conservation; and

13. UK Government in direct Rule set a poor precedent in Conservation; it did not criticise the former administration’s quite anti-conservation stance, did not reasonably repair problems caused by that administration, and has not encouraged new administrations to become more conservation-minded, such that the environment was not mentioned in any political platform in the 2012 elections.

14. The UK Government’s Direct Rule administration’s willingness to entertain developments clearly in violation of Planning Ordinance, the Fisheries Protection Ordinance and the National Parks Ordinance and having potentially severe environmental impact has set a poor precedent for the elected government to follow. In fact, the statement that these decisions are best left to an elected government demonstrates a clear disregard for extant legislation and a government’s obligation to follow its own law.

15. The UK Government in direct rule dissolved the Conservation Fund, which was established to support conservation efforts in TCI, and absorbed it into the General Fund to cover general budget deficits. No alternative to the Conservation Fund has been established or suggested, and the loss of economic support has been detrimental to conservation efforts.

How the introduction of ‘Marine Protected Areas’ could safeguard the marine environment in the uninhabited territories.

16. The Turks and Caicos Islands have a well-developed Marine Protected Areas network. The limitations of this network exist as an extension of the lack of resources and funding needed for management and enforcement of the existing legislative framework.

17. While the Protected Areas network is extensive, management plans are only in place for three Protected Areas within the system. Management plans and the economic and labour resources needed to implement them are urgently needed.

30 November 2012

Prepared 14th January 2013