The New Today


Response to public consultation with the Hengsheng Group

Several environmental groups, including the Grenada Land Actors, attended the public consultation on the Grenada National Resort at Levera, held in Sauteurs on Saturday, 11th, February 2023.

The consultation was conducted by the developers, Singapore Heng Sheng Development Ltd and their EIA consultant, Niles & Associates. The purpose of the consultation was to address public concerns about the project. Many serious concerns expressed by the participants were deflected or left unanswered or unaddressed by the developers and their consultant.

The developers appeared to be fixated on glorifying the project rather than engaging in substantive discourse with the participants. They regularly exulted the project and its impact on Grenada’s tourism industry and appealed for public support but appeared unwilling to discuss plans and actions that would mitigate its negative impacts on the environment.

In fact, very early in the presentation, it became clear that the developers had no plans to change the design, even with consistent opposition to the project from nearly all the participants at the event.

Despite a statement by the developers published on the ‘Now Grenada’ website, on the 16th February 2023, claiming they are “committed to ensuring that the development is inclusive and transparent, with the full involvement of all relevant stakeholders”, their failure to provide answers and address public concerns at the consultation does not reflect inclusiveness, transparency or full involvement.

Their statement does not reflect that the majority of questions and feedback provided by the audience expressed extreme dissatisfaction with the footprint and design of the Resort/Casino and Golf course as well as the effects on the public infrastructure, including roads and water supply.

Members of the public at the consultation felt unheard and unacknowledged as the developers did not commit to any remedies and the EIA practitioner brushed off questions about the modified boundaries of the protected RAMSAR site and concerns about the marine environment at Levera.

A short video was also released by GBN on February 13th with highlights from the consultation, however the soundbites in the video did not show some of the difficult questions that were being asked.

Some participants, after hearing the developers’ claims, even suggested that the project was a scam, with no real plans on how to market this resort and casino, no plans for water and infrastructure and no plans for wastewater and sewage treatment.

Notes taken by members of the public of what transpired at the meeting include:

*Lack of transparency regarding the coordinates of the RAMSAR protected site at Levera and whether there was a Government agreement with the developer to modify the boundaries. The extent and size of the site has changed based on the maps presented by Niles and Associates in the EIA.

This is not in accordance with the rules of the RAMSAR convention; if any aspect of the original designation is changed, there is a protocol that has to be adhered to and a lengthy process to implement changes.

GLA notes that no national consultations were held by the Government to discuss any changes to the RAMSAR boundaries.

  • The developers’ narrative focused on the fact that there will be ‘jobs’ for locals. However, it was pointed out by members of the public that a dormitory structure has already been built on the site to house foreign workers to carry out the construction.
  • The developers expressed that they would invest in infrastructure in the North, such as roads and also pay for any damage to roads and bridges that their heavy machinery might cause. However, the EIA consultant, Mr Niles, questioned whether the developers should foot the bill for such a venture.
  • Several people queried why the developers thought this kind of development should be placed in such a pristine environment, such as Levera, whether it fits the aesthetic of the Pure Grenada brand, and why such a preposterous size of hotel was selected for Levera.
  • Questions were asked about why work was being conducted, including the destruction of the forest and mangroves to construct the golf course when consultations have not been concluded. Both the developers and their consultant did not respond to the question of whether a separate EIA for the golf course was conducted.
  • The developers were also unclear on how the hotel would meet the demands for water given more than 500 rooms, a casino and golf course are part of the resort plans. Climate change forecasts for Grenada suggest that we should expect a decline in annual precipitation and one suggestion from the developers – that they want to use the Levera pond for irrigation of the golf course, was received with gasps of incredulity from the public.

GLA’s review of the EIA prior to this consultation revealed that there was no consideration of the Levera pond as a water source for this development.

  • Participants expressed that eco-lodges or villas would make much more sense for Levera, given Grenada’s niche tourism market and the area’s cultural and ecological value. Does it really make sense to replicate an unrealistic design from Dubai or Singapore (the developer’s words) and transplant it in Pure Grenada?
  • The 10 meter buffer around the wetland that the developers have proposed is not sufficient, a 100 meter buffer at minimum needs to be established in order to retain the integrity of the RAMSAR site.
  • Levera beach is the home of the NGO ‘Ocean Spirits’ and one of their aims is to preserve what is one of the second largest leatherback nesting sites in the Caribbean.

Globally, leatherback status according to IUCN is listed as Vulnerable, but many subpopulations (such as in the Pacific and Southwest Atlantic) are Critically Endangered which adds importance to the work of the agency and which would be seriously challenged if this development were to be implemented in its present form.

Other queries, which were not addressed by the EIA practitioner, include that the existing EIA does not:

(a) mention the fact that Levera is considered a National Park and is also proposed as a Marine Protected Area. Because of the uniqueness of this area, it was designated as a wetland of international importance under the RAMSAR convention in 2012.

(b) address the creation of the 18 hole golf course and its implications, particularly pertaining to water use, removal of coastal vegetation and runoff into the ponds and beach area. Here the developers only referred to a ‘design plan’ for the golf course done by the Robert Trent Jones Jr. group, not a separate EIA.

(c) refer to the 2018 management plan for the Marine Protected Area in Levera. The surveys done under that plan suggest suboptimal water quality along the beach, this development will only make matters worse.

GLA released an extensive review of the EIA conducted by Niles and Associates, available on the GLA website and Facebook page which highlights the multiple failings of this document, which is supposed to act as guidance for decision makers. These include a lack of proper data collection, factual and grammatical errors, the use of outdated and irrelevant data, disregard of local laws and international obligations, and the absence of real mitigation measures.

Given these major gaps, it begs the question, who from the Government Ministries and Physical Planning Authority reviewed and approved this document given its blatantly obvious inadequacies?

Submitted by the Grenada Land Actors