Government committed to making decisions in the public interest – Minister Payet


31-May-2013

The Minister for Environment and Energy has also noted that in some 90% of all original projects submitted for an Environment Impact Assessment (EIA), their original concepts are modified through the process because a lot of other aspects, namely environmental, as well as issues raised by the public are taken into account.

Minister Payet made those remarks in the National Assembly on Tuesday while answering an urgent question by the leader of government business Marie-Antoinette Rose relating to various concerns raised by the public with regard to two huge tourism development projects at Grand Police and Cap Ternay.
Ms Rose had asked the minister to explain;

• if the impact assessments of the two projects are taking into account environmental concerns being raised,

• if access to the beaches in the area of the proposed projects, either by foot or by boat, is being guaranteed.

Minister Payet cited Seychelles’ credibility and reputation in carrying out several EIAs over the last 19 years.

He noted that around 75 EIAs for huge development projects, mainly hotels, have been carried out in that period of time.

He noted that the law provides for two classes of EIAs and this is the Class 1 in which the mentioned 75 EIAs fall and Class 2 which covers small developments like houses, shops, and other smaller development.

Minister Payet stressed that when a project is being subjected to an EIA it has not yet been approved by the government.

But does an EIA take into consideration public consultations? At this point Minister Payet used the Ephelia Hotel as an example. He noted that the original concept of that project was modified following various consultations with the public and today the public have access to the beach at Port Launay and the bridge which provides access to the hotel was redesigned to allow access for fishermen and also to protect the marsh and ensure there was no flooding in the area.

The villas were set back from the beach to allow for public access and privacy on the beach.

The hotel itself and different groups and movement in the community have also adopted the marsh.

As to whether an EIA has ever rejected a project Minister Payet answered in the affirmative, giving as example the construction of a road which was to be used by a hotel at Grand Barbe on Silhouette.

“A detailed EIA was carried out over a period of around two years by different specialists and the ensuing results stipulated that the road should not be built because conservation of the island is considered important for Seychelles,” Minister Payet said, adding soon after that Silhouette was declared a National Park.

At this point Minister Payet gave different examples where developments which were subjected to an EIA are now bringing a lot of benefits for our people, our communities, our environment and have increased Seychelles’ credibility in terms of conservation. These include the Domaine de L’Orangerie on La Digue and Labriz on Silhouette.

With regard to access to beaches, Minister Payet explained that the government remains committed to ensuring public access to beaches and other public domains is guaranteed at all times but stressed that there are instances where this is not respected.

He noted that all actors – hotels, the public and the government – should work together to make that possible.

“The government will continue to ensure that in all EIAs access to beaches are maintained,” Minister Payet stressed.

“At the same time we will continue to learn from past mistakes and ensure that when the projects start, necessary pathways are created to continue maintaining public access even during the time construction works are in progress.

“Hotels should ensure that barriers erected during construction do not hinder access to beaches and it is therefore not correct to say that the Seychellois public is being prevented to access the beaches,” Minister Payet stressed.

Minister Payet further explained that it is important that we explore ways to balance tourism development and the need for the Seychellois public to continue enjoying our beaches in peace and harmony.

In answer to a supplementary question by Ms Rose who wanted to know how the government is ensuring that while we need foreign direct investments in the country the voice of the people and their concerns are taken into consideration, Vice-President Danny Faure said that we are living in a democratic country and all citizens have an opinion on and legitimate concerns over any development and that is why the country has put in place the appropriate structures for all proposed developments to go through.

“It is important that the opinion of the public and individuals are respected and the people know that the government is there to make decisions in the public interest and benefits,” Vice-President Faure stressed.

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