New Urban Center to open in Lewis Yard

by: Lededra Marche, News Editor

Concern over the conditions some residents in the nation’s second city are exposed to and other environmental issues has birthed the drafting of four new bills, Minister for Grand Bahama Dr. Michael Darville revealed in the House of Assembly earlier this week.
The MP for Pineridge, while making his contribution to the budget debate, pointed out that there is absolutely no reason why in these modern times, anyone should be living in the conditions some residents were found during a recent assessment by officials.
“There is no way that a caring government can allow these kinds of problems to go unresolved. That is why in a matter of weeks this administration will open a new Urban Renewal Center in the Lewis Yard area and begin to address these serious problems,” the minister said.
He noted that last year he set a goal to eliminate outside toilets in Grand Bahama over a 24-month period and he is committed to doing so.
“Simply because they carry potential risk and have been implemented in the contamination of the water table and link to the spread of the many forms of communicable diseases,” he said.
Dr. Darville revealed that the new budget now allows financial resources to be allocated to the Ministry of Grand Bahama under urban redevelopment which will ensure that Grand Bahama residents live in a cleaner, safer, healthier community where the basic necessities of life are accessible to them.
Insisting that the environmental protection for the 60,000 residents of Grand Bahama is paramount going forward, Darville said the relocation of Pinder’s Point and Lewis Yard is an issue that has simply been kicked down the road from administration to administration.
Residents of the Lewis Yard and Pinder’s Point area have been complaining of being plagued by industrial emissions from neighboring facilities for years.
“This administration intends to bring closure to this vexing issue,” he said. “For too long we have brought lip service to many pressing issues about the environment on Grand Bahama and the potential negative impact that industry has had on the lives of individuals who live and work in close proximity to the industrial park.
“Last year the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology, along with my ministry worked closely with the Grand Bahama Port Authority (and) BORCO to relocate Lewis yard Primary School to its new location, the St. Vincent de Paul Primary School.”
The move, which was long overdue, he admitted, proved to be costly for the government and was facilitated by efforts from private partners, the Ministry of Education and citizens in the Lewis Yard and Pinder’s Point area.
Giving an update, the minister said that despite minor interruptions at the start of the school year, the children are generally doing well and minor repairs are scheduled to begin this fiscal year under the school repair program.
Darville also pointed out that he agreed with MP for Central Grand Bahama Neko Grant who stated in the House sometime earlier that despite government’s efforts, the area children must go back home in the same environment after school and are still potentially exposed to possible contaminants that are brought about with close proximity to the industrial park. 
However, he assured that much of the work done by his ministry, the Pinder’s Point/Lewis Yard Committee, the Technical Office in the Department of Environmental Health and the Royal Bahamas Police Force is near completion.
“Findings are now in and funding is now in my budget to conduct independent environmental assessments to substantiate the claims of illnesses being brought on by exposure to hazardous chemicals,” said Dr. Darville.
“I am happy to report that we are making strides in fulfilling our mandate of the proposed relocation of the residents of Lewis Yard and Pinder’s Point as promised in our ‘Charter of Governance.’ 
Over the last year, he said, four new pieces of legislation, which are expected to allow for better protection, monitoring and regulation of the industrial sector in Grand Bahama were drafted in a collaborative effort by the Ministry for Grand Bahama, Ministry of Environment and Housing and Grand Bahama Port Authority.
They include  an Act to prevent nuisances; protect our natural resources; protect our environment and waste management; and regulate pollutants.
At present, the four acts are with the Ministry of Environment and Attorney-General’s Office and will be brought to Parliament in short order by Environment Minister Kenred Dorsett, according to Darville.
 “As a result, industry on Grand Bahama will no longer be allowed to self regulate but will have to fall under the guidelines of these new pieces of legislation and line up with the government rules and regulations,” he said.
Darville explained that their implementation will mean that for the first time from the signing of the Hawksbill Creek Agreement and the establishment of the 1969 Environmental Act, the government and regulators will have greater authority and legal teeth to enforce laws and execute better control over what is happening in the island’s industrial sector.
The minister also revealed that the funding necessary for the training of Bahamians to enforce the new environmental laws is in place. 
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