Bar­bu­dans sue to block air­port as they seek to re­build af­ter hur­ri­cane

Stabroek News - - NEWS -

SEAT­TLE, (Thomson Reuters Foun­da­tion) -A group of Bar­bu­dans has filed a le­gal claim against their gov­ern­ment to halt con­struc­tion of an in­ter­na­tional air­port, say­ing the money should in­stead be used to re­store basic ser­vices af­ter Hur­ri­cane Irma dev­as­tated the is­land.

The claimants ar­gue there should be a ju­di­cial re­view of the de­ci­sion to give the green light to the air­port, which they say vi­o­lates the plan­ning act and was not sub­ject to a proper en­vi­ron­men­tal im­pact re­view. The gov­ern­ment re­jects that charge.

They also say the spend­ing can­not be jus­ti­fied when the is­land does not have a fully func­tion­ing hos­pi­tal, only about a third of res­i­dents have re­li­able elec­tric­ity, and many still rely on hand­outs for drink­ing wa­ter.

“How can you jus­tify putting re­sources into an in­ter­na­tional air­port when the basic ser­vices that are re­quired by a com­mu­nity are still not in place?” one of the com­plainants John Muss­ing­ton told the Thomson Reuters Foun­da­tion by tele­phone from Bar­buda.

Con­struc­tion work be­gan in Septem­ber and the to­tal cost will be nearly 16 mil­lion dol­lars ac­cord­ing to the web­site of the lo­cal Ob­server news­pa­per. It said the gov­ern­ment was putting up 4 mil­lion dol­lars with the rest com­ing from pri­vate in­vestors.

The is­land is part of An­tigua and Bar­buda, a twin-is­land na­tion in the Caribbean, but has tra­di­tion­ally gov­erned its own land. It is the smaller of the two is­lands, with just 1,600 in­hab­i­tants. The group be­hind the law­suit says the en­vi­ron­men­tal im­pact as­sess­ment (EIA) for the air­port was in­ad­e­quate and the gov­ern­ment did not fol­low re­quire­ments un­der its own plan­ning law.

“What was done can­not be con­sid­ered to be an EIA,” said Muss­ing­ton, a bi­ol­o­gist and prin­ci­pal of Bar­buda’s sec­ondary school.

An­tigua and Bar­buda’s Chief En­vi­ron­men­tal Of­fi­cer Diann Black­Layne de­nied the charge.

“As far as I am aware they met most of the en­vi­ron­men­tal re­quire­ments for which they ap­plied,” she said via What­sApp. “I am not aware of the gaps at this time.”

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