Small Islands Voice Global Forum
Balancing development and environment
Scott Radway's message on the Small Islands Voice global forum described the development of a new road in Palau in the Pacific. Several people from small islands in the Caribbean, Indian Ocean and Pacific regions e-mailed responses, a selection of which are summarized below. Further responses will be posted in two weeks time.
The question of moving from the spear to the computer is a difficult one, writes Donna Bartram from the Turks and Caicos Islands in the Caribbean. As long as development takes place in small planned steps, then a small island like Palau should be able to handle it. The old saying ‘prevention is worth a pound of cure’ is important here, so look backward before you move forward and go cautiously, testing the impact of the various changes. There has to be a balance between ecology and development. So designate certain areas of the roadway which will require special treatment in order to preserve surrounding areas.
A similar view regarding the need for a balance between development and environment was sent by Rasack Nayamuth from Mauritius in the Indian Ocean. A lot of things have been done in the wrong way in this densely populated island of 1.2 million people. The lagoon ecosystem has been overfished and polluted by industrialization, and there is a lot of non-sustainable coastal development. Development should be done in harmony with the environment and also take into account the social fabric and culture of the country. A very good example is the Seychelles where the environment is of prime importance and development projects are implemented in harmony with nature.
Robert Heinin from Vanuatu mentions the difficulty of communicating in English for some islands. He goes on to say that the problem is always the same. If we don't have development, then people will have nothing to eat in the coming years, while if we have development then people will have to change their daily lives. Most people dream of becoming rich quickly, but this will only become reality for very few. In his view the road in Palau is going to be built anyway and Palauans will have to adapt themselves to a new way of life.
Both Donna Bartram and Robert Heinin commented on the importance of development to young people. Development fosters the youth of a nation, and our children need to be part of the 21st century. Thanks to technology, the child of an islander can be as technologically advanced as, for example, a child from the USA. Culture is still more sacred and each will be his own individual influenced by family, local circumstances and surroundings (Bartram). It is difficult to know what the future will be like for our children, all we can be sure of is that their lives will be completely different to our own. They will live in a virtual world far away from nature (Heinin).
Jacky Silvers, remembers that in the Florida Keys, USA, more than 50 years ago developers pledged ‘conscientious’ development. However, the land and the once pristine waters have been degraded, the fish stocks depleted, and the birds and animals that roamed the pinelands have disappeared. South Floridians gained nothing, and the developers laughed all the way to their banks.
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