Activists step up campaign to save Central Wetlands

| 22/11/2022 | 43 Comments
Cayman News Service
Mangrove wetlands (photo by Omari Rankin)

(CNS): Sustainable Cayman is raising the alarm over the direct threat to the Central Mangrove Wetlands from the proposed East-West Arterial Road extension, given that only around a quarter of the area is considered protected. The planned expansion of the road from Bodden Town to Frank Sound will directly impact 174 acres of this unique habitat. It will also open up the area for further development threatening much more of what is believed to be the largest stretch of continuous wetland in the Caribbean.

Based on the UN goal of nations preserving at least 30% of their land mass in a natural state by 2030, Sustainable Cayman, a local environmental group, is calling on the government to take action here to meet that goal and start by protecting the Central Mangrove Wetland.

“Protecting 30% of our land and sea by 2030 will not happen in time unless a political commitment is made and a plan is put into action,” the activists said in a press release issued Friday. “Our natural landscape is transforming at an alarming speed, causing the natural assets and services that support our lives to be degraded. Without a holistic vision and plan to unite us in decisions, our quality of life will increasingly suffer as we encounter more people, traffic and pollution. These things harm the plants and animals that live amongst us.”

The activists said the wetlands are particularly vulnerable, but are invaluable to the resilience of the Cayman Islands and could help strengthen the islands against climate change. As well as protecting the island from storms, creating rain and storing carbon, the Central Wetlands are home to an abundance of birds and other wildlife.

“We are experiencing a biodiversity and climate crisis. The last thing any country should be doing is destroying their critical natural habitats,” the activists stated.

In a recent article for the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, Sustainable Cayman drew attention to the dangers this habitat faces. Already under pressure from quarries and agriculture, as well as residential and commercial developments that are encroaching into the area, the proposed road will cut through the southern portion, fragmenting the habitat and opening even more of the land to development.

If it goes ahead, the EWA extension could dam rainwater flowing across the land, disrupting the nutrient dispersal into the North Sound marine ecosystem. The current plan also severs the historic Mastic Trail and could damage the health of Meagre Pond.

“This complex, natural ecosystem is connected to so many aspects of Cayman’s economy, culture, and environmental conditions. Simply put, the loss of the Central Mangrove Wetland would change the fate of our only home,” the activists wrote.

The National Roads Authority recently awarded a contract to a US-based engineering firm to conduct the environmental impact assessment. Over the next 16 months or more, the engineers will examine the damage the project would cause to the environment, the extent of flooding against the potential benefit of the road, and what, if any, mitigation measures could be deployed.

The process will include a public consultation period with open district meetings, which will provide an opportunity for people to raise their objections to the project.

Although Premier Wayne Panton is committed to sustainability and preserving the Central Mangroves, he nevertheless supports the road. Successive governments have faced mounting pressure from people living in the Eastern Districts who are facing ever-growing traffic congestion and landowners keen to open the CMW area for even more development.

It is far from clear that the new road will solve Cayman’s traffic woes, which continues to deteriorate in the face of unchecked population growth, an inadequate public transport system and the failure to implement other mitigating measures to limit traffic.

The commuter traffic jams are caused by the natural bottleneck at Grand Harbour, the narrowest part of the island, where all traffic from the east must pass when travelling to and from George Town. Critics of the road say it will merely speed up the time it takes to arrive at the inevitable jam at Grand Harbour unless other issues are deployed.

Activists have argued that the decentralisation of government and commercial activity from the capital to other parts of the islands, staggered working times, more remote working, an expansion of the school bus provision, especially for the private schools, and a much improved public transport network would eliminate the need for this road, cut emissions and preserve this critical habitat.


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Category: development, Land Habitat, Local News, Science & Nature

Comments (43)

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  1. Anonymous says:

    I live in the Eastern Districts. I don’t want another road. What I want is reliable bus service, cheaper fares and trained drivers. Then, I will give up my car full time. Please leave our wetlands alone so that our children can enjoy the benefits from them just as we have and those before us. For those that say “what have the wetlands done for me”, please do some research it might surprise you.

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  2. Anonymous says:

    The UN is a group of bungling, power hungry, narcissistic unelected and unaccountable bunch of bureaucrats that want to control everyone’s lives.

    I don’t care what the UN says or the other globalist organizations like WHO, NIH, FDA say. They are all compromised and corrupt.

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  3. Raise the Standards says:

    The Eastern districts desperately need another access point for numerous reasons as if anything were to block the road in BT emergency services would not be able to reach the eastern end of the island.

    There must be consideration made to ways this road can be built to cause as little destruction to the wetland as possible – it just has to be built

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    • Anonymous says:

      Agreed. The road has to be done. It blows my mind that those who now live in south sound and wb road (which was ALL mangroves) now want to talk about saving the environment. Hypocrites.

  4. Anonymous says:

    I think what’s even crazier is them just distroyong the wetland next to the airport. I mean surely there was other land that could have been used.Its been piles of mud for months. like who does that? just distroys the land like that

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    • Anonymous says:

      Discourages the birds, which are sometimes bad for airplane engines.

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      • Anonymous says:

        don’t know if your small minded self has noticed but the poor bastards are still there.

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      • Anonymous says:

        Not the ducks which are loving all of the open water areas now created. If birds was the concern they would have been better off leaving it treed for the birds to hide in when the planes fly over. So I don’t think that was their intention since the CIAA know this already.

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  5. Anonymous says:

    “Blow, blow Seminole Wind…..”

    John Anderson

  6. Anonymous says:

    PACi need disallow foreigners from purchasing our land.
    The previous government promised the DArts to expand the population to 100k you can only imaginie who suffers more in these situations. Politicians are licking their fingers at the expense of Caymanians vote. Wake up and pay attention. Your rights to privacy will be taken away shortly by this digital Id.

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    • Anonymous says:

      Well, considering its an incentive to add points to your PR to own property I wouldn’t hold my breath.

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    • Truth says:

      Your(most)land is now their land and you have no say in it anymore just like they have no say in what ever is left for you that you have not yet sold. Welcome to the real world. Progress can not be stopped and Caymanian leadership is hopelessly outclassed to have any control over it. After all these years can you not see this? Caymanians have sold the land to buy cars and food and homes while expats have worked hard and often to buy what they need including land. They don’t need to sell land to live. Everyone has the right to live this way but some choose not to.

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    • Anonymous says:

      You sold most of the land to us in the first place xenophobe. You probably don’t have any to sell hence your comment.

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    • Anonymous says:

      My fellow Caymanian ‘Uncle Dart’ agrees. He would much rather rent you an apartment than sell you an apartment in Camana Bay. – As simple as the ‘no foreigners’ answer always sounds it is usually not that simple in practice. Most foreign nationals already do not own their own property. The total number of people (resident & tourist) is the real problem, i.e., demand, not (for cost purposes only) who owns the land.

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  7. Anonymous says:

    Figure out another way, but stop destroying the environment by building, building and more building.

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  8. Anonymous says:

    Many years ago government was advised not to construct on the beach side of seven mile beach. No one listened but to the greedy developers. Look at what is happening to SMB now. Can we afford to make that same mistake again?

    Now I listened to everyone of Wayne’s speeches at his political rallies and I was convinced that he was going to slow and stop this over developing which would in turn, save our environment. Now I’m reading in black and white that he’s supporting the destruction of our wetlands and miles of mangroves.

    Please Sir, tell me the rationale for this extension to be completed at the expense of the environment?

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    • Lee says:

      Politicians say anything when trying to get into parliament but when they do get in they look to line their own pockets.

      I think we should limit the amount of cars on the island.

      Climate change is real and happening now. Leave the wetlands, we need them!

  9. Anonymous says:

    The people need the road! The environmentalist should go back to their home!

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    • Anonymous says:

      What a considered argument!

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    • Anonymous says:

      The road won’t get you anywhere faster because they all feed into roundabouts no one knows how to use. But the carbon mangroves trap does help us in our everyday life by breathing cleaner air.

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    • Lee says:

      The environmentalist is spot on with all that’s referred to in the article. Climate change is no joke!

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    • Anonymous says:

      I’m a 4th generation Caymanian and an environmentalist. Tell me where you’d like me to go once my home and the wetlands that protect us against hurricanes have been destroyed for roads that only add to the congestion.

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  10. Anonymous says:

    The EWA will not help. It will only get all those people living in the east quicker to the bottleneck at Grand Harbour – so the delays will still be there. Grand Harbour needs a flyover….

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    • N says:

      We need both the EWA and an overpass.

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      • Anonymous says:

        The EE will never be the same if that road goes through. There will be so much building on the EE once the road goes through that it will no longer have any green, let alone worrying about mangroves. It will match the other end of the island and just be paved in cement.

  11. Annon. says:

    This article does not say anything about how the group proposes to make this work, eg. what is their proposal to protect this land? I assume, the land doesn’t belong to them so if they want to prevent the owners of the land from using their property, what is their proposal? Are they raising funds to buy the land, are they proposing the land be taken away so the owners can’t use it?
    Are they giving up any of their land in return? Some sort of land swap would be a sensible solution.

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    • Anonymous says:

      National should purchase or government use the environment funds and acquire all the wetlands and place in trust for the people of Cayman. Here are some quick fixes to the traffic congestion,
      1) encourage car pooling by offering incentives such as free gas to the driver.
      2) provide incentives to businesses to offer flex time or to work from home.
      3) heavy equipment vehicles to operate in a specific time window and not at peak times.

      Long term

      1) proper buses and bus routes (what was the outcome of the Barbados trip)
      2) limitations vehicles per household (why does every family member need a car – 5 people in a household and 5 people have a car each)

      There are alternatives to alleviate the congestion. Leave the wetlands alone.

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  12. Anonymous says:

    The traffic in the morning is terrible…..only east people know what suffer every single morning with children that have to wake up 4:30 to be in town at 7 just because they don’t want to build a road ….

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    • Anonymous says:

      And that’s more important than the enviroment?

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    • Anonymous says:

      If you are so, so worried about your children losing sleep, you might also worry that they WON’T HAVE A CAYMAN TO LIVE IN when they are adults. Yes, traffic needs to be dealt with, but not at the expense of ruining the country. Many other congestion solutions are possible, but building the EWA is the worst.

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    • Anonymous says:

      Was it the same when you moved there? Would it be practical to relocate closer to the school?

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  13. Ugly Reality says:

    The new road is now necessary, for multiple reasons.
    A vehicular overpass at the Hurleys bottleneck has been necessary for many years.
    Both are necessary.
    Mitigation and/or elimination of negative impacts are achievable.
    The verbal flatulence of complete and utter hypocrites cannot and will not change these realities and necessities, nor should they be allowed to when it is their very presence which is a very large part of the overall problem.

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  14. Anonymous says:

    Build the road now! Don’t be concerned about wet land. People could have died Friday night because of that traffic jam blocking first responders. At present we have a single road servicing the eastern districts to the one Emergency Room we have in GT.

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  15. Anonymous says:

    Don’t worry, CPA will take care of destroying those mangroves and if there is any opposition they will use taxpayer funds to get it reversed in court. Wake up, until the laws are changed to stop CPA granting whatever they feel like then the whole environment is doomed as greed & development rule Cayman!

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  16. Anonymous says:

    There are so many logical reasons why these wetlands need to be protected. Unfortunately they reside in Cayman, which is why they are doomed. Cayman has no backbone to protect it’s environment. The EW arterial will be duly ‘debated’ for face-saving, then rubber-stamped to proceed. Then extensive building on adjacent lots will also proceed.

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  17. Anonymous says:

    PACT INTENTIONALLY created the now infamous pirates week traffic jam in order to get people on their side for the East-West Arterial Road extension.

    Never mind… I take it back… PACT isn’t that smart.

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  18. Anonymous says:

    Alden is among politicians who own spec real estate along this land-locked corridor that stands to rapidly appreciate via proximity to new infrastructure. Making sense in any other conversation doesn’t adjust that base conflict/motivation driving a monetisation event. Welcome to Cayman.

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