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The Ashton Lagoon Restoration project – long overdue

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Most times, when discussions are held about circumstances and consequences of the failed Ottley Hall Marina Project, no mention is made of another unfinished project the Ottley Hall developers left when they ran out of St Vincent and the Grenadines under a cloud of controversy.

When Caribbean Chartered and Yacht Yard Holdings Ltd (CCYY) abandoned the Ottley Hall Marina Project around 1995, they left in their wake, {{more}}besides Ottley Hall, another casualty of their intervention in this country, which many observers consider a much greater disaster than Ottley Hall ever was.

Many residents of mainland St Vincent, to this day, are unaware that while the shipyard at Ottley Hall was being developed, CCYY was simultaneously undertaking another project on Union Island — the development of a berth marina, a golf course, and large condominiums at Ashton Lagoon.

That project promised to be the answer to the problems of unemployment on that Grenadine island and for a short while, after construction began, provided significant stimulus to the tiny island’s economy.

What was left on Union Island after the developers pulled out has been described by many as the worst environmental disaster in the history of this country. What was originally a large mangrove of significant ecological, economic and recreational value turned into what amounted to a murky swamp, where much of the marine ecosystem had been destroyed.

Last month, after almost 20 years, a development took place on Union Island which allowed residents of that island to breathe a collective sigh of relief and if all goes according to plan, should see the restoration of the area into a healthy ecosystem.

On September 18, the Ashton Lagoon Restoration Project was launched in Union Island (see story on page 16) with the support of many agencies, both governmental and non-governmental.

The plan to restore the area is a major one and seeks to improve the mangrove habitat, coral reefs, seagrass beds and fish life, whilst providing opportunities for sustainable livelihoods and development with a focus on restoring hydrology and tidal flushing of the Ashton Harbour and to develop a plan for sustainable tourism and livelihood option.

The project has been long in coming and has allowed the people of Union Island hope that soon, their prized lagoon will be restored to its former splendour.

As the project managers embark on their project, we wish them every success. However, the restoration project should also serve as a caution to the authorities as to how easily well meaning projects can go wrong, how easily the environment in which we live can be destroyed when insufficient due diligence is carried out on potential investors. Let us not have a repeat of the Ashton Lagoon experience.

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