What is the Yida project?
The Yida project, named after its Chinese investor Yida International, is a US$750 million resort and residential development project in Antigua and Barbuba on which construction began in 2015.
The site for the project lies within the boundary of the North East Marine Management Area (NEMMA), designated in 2005 and protected from alteration or disturbance by the 2006 Fisheries Act. The focal offshore area of the project site, the Guiana Bay Islands, are home to a number of endemic and migratory species, including the endangered West Indian Whistling Duck and Tropic Bird, and are a critical nursery for species of importance to the local and regional fishing industries.
Outline of the environmental injustice
The Antigua and Barbuda Department of Environment (DoE), environmental professionals and the public alike have expressed deep concerns about the environmental impact of development for the Yida project, which has been widely reported to have already resulted in the overriding of environmental laws, including the removal of protected mangrove habitats in order to create new beaches.
An Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) highlighted major problems with the proposed work however, despite the outcome of the EIA, construction has reportedly continued as planned. The EIA was additionally deemed unsatisfactory by the DoE upon review, requesting comprehensive coastal environmental impact and engineering studies to be carried out in addition to the existing assessment, however it is unclear if these have taken place.
In addition to the impact on the protected marine ecosystem, opponents of the project have also argued that the removal of mangrove trees greatly increases the likelihood of flooding and hurricanes to the island.
International commitments for environmental protection in Antigua and Barbuda
In 2015, Antigua and Barbuda agreed and committed to the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, and the following year signed and later ratified the legally binding Paris Agreement, pledging to limit global temperature rise to 1.5 degrees Celsius. Furthermore, in 2020 the Government signed and ratified the Escazú Agreement, ensuring public participation and access to justice in environmental matters. Opponents of the Yida project therefore argue that, in addition to breaching environmental laws in place in Antigua and Barbuda to protect the marine ecosystem, the planned development also contravenes the country’s international commitments to ensure sustainable development, urgent action on climate change and the rights of local people to engage in decision-making.