To build or not to build: A national conversation is required, commentary by David Comissiong

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To build or not to build: A national conversation is required, commentary by David Comissiong
A portion of the Barbados coastline

To continue to build on the beaches of Barbados or not to build — that is the question! (And whether or not to start the practice of constructing towering buildings along the coastline of Barbados — that is an associated question!).

My own personal position is that we have already done enough building on the most prized beaches of Barbados, and that we are in danger of killing the proverbial goose that lays the tourism golden egg.

And so, whether I oppose the building of a 15-story monstrosity of a Hyatt hotel in the law courts of Barbados or through an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) process — inclusive of town hall meetings — the fact is that I, in my capacity as a citizen of Barbados, intend to continue to oppose it! Those who would suggest otherwise either really don’t know David Comissiong, or are simply engaging in opportunist partisan politics.

Surely, the main reason why tourists choose to come to Barbados is to enjoy the beauty and comfort of our natural environment — with our beaches taking pride of place — and to experience the heritage of our country and the warmth and hospitality of our people and their social culture.

I would therefore like to urge all Barbadians to seriously consider whether we really want to construct towering hotel structures along the magnificent beachfront of Carlisle Bay, or to accelerate the process of transforming a Bajan people’s beach into an alienated coastal zone in which locals feel uncomfortable.

Fellow Barbadians, what is wrong with establishing extensive “windows to the sea” along the most beautiful beaches of Barbados , so that these beaches can remain uncluttered and readily accessible for both citizens and visitors alike, while future hotel development takes place on the land-side of the coastal highway?

It is important that we recognize that Barbados possesses a unique natural, socio-cultural, and historical/heritage environment, and that we must therefore be very wary about engaging in so-called “development” that ends up doing permanent damage to what is truly unique and valuable about our environment. You see, once we do any fundamental damage to our unique Barbadian environment, we will never be able to restore it and it will be lost forever.

Indeed, in this regard, we need to pay special heed to the opinion of Mr Peter Stevens, the president of the Barbados National Trust, who has gone on record and has warned us that if the proposed Hyatt Hotel is constructed (as currently designed) it will almost certainly cause Barbados to be stripped of its UNESCO World Heritage site designation. And this would be a terrible tragedy, because the real future of Barbados’ tourism industry lies in the development of cultural, heritage, health , and educational tourism!

I also feel very strongly that as we go forward with tourism in Barbados that we should seek — more and more — to indigenize the industry. Let us, therefore, commit ourselves to a future of locally owned hotels and related facilities that fit snugly into our national environment, and that radiate the unique personality, charm, culture, and hospitality of the Barbadian people.

In conclusion, please permit me to say that the issue of “to build or not to build” on the beaches of Barbados (or the issue of whether or not to build towering hotels on our coastline) should not be pigeonholed as David Comissiong’s issue. N

eedless-to-say, I will continue to advocate and fight for my own personal position on the issue, but it is really a national issue and it is time that we have a comprehensive and responsible national conversation about it.

DAVID COMISSIONG
Citizen of Barbados

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