Road to ruin for rare parrot
The globally threatened St Vincent Parrot, national bird of St Vincent and the Grenadines, is under threat from a cross-country road funded by the Taiwanese Government.
The St Vincent Parrot Amazona guildingii is classified as Vulnerable by BirdLife. The species has recovered slightly after the population declined to critically low levels in the 1980s. Habitat loss, hunting for food, and trapping for the cage-bird trade were the principal causes of this species' decline. However the entire population still only numbers around 800 birds.
The new road would irreversibly damage the remnants of primary rainforest on which the parrot depends, and open it up to further encroachment by illegal loggers and marijuana growers.
No Environmental Impact Assessment has been carried out, as is required under recognised international standards. An Environmental Investigation and Cataloguing study, prepared earlier this year, has not been made public, although a local environmental group, Friends of the Environment /St Vincent and the Grenadines (FOTE/SVG), has obtained a copy.
The study warns that the road threatens the parrot and other endemic biodiversity, puts the islandís growing ecotourism industry in jeopardy, and will interfere with an important watershed. It also warns of an increased risk of landslides in an area which only recently (November 2004) suffered from land and mudslides after heavy rain.
"The exemplary record of the St Vincent government over the last 20 years in saving their national bird, will be undone to devastating effect by this ill-sited cross country road." —David Wege, BirdLife Internationalís Caribbean Programme Manager
The development is funded by the Taiwanese Overseas Engineering Construction Company (OECC), which was set up in Panama by the Taiwanese Overseas Investment and Development Organization, with the stated aim of providing infrastructure projects for "diplomatic partners" who support Taiwanís campaign for recognition by the United Nations and other international institutions. The Taiwanese Ambassador to St Vincent and the Grenadines recently presented Prime Minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves with a cheque for US$2.74 million to fund the first phase of the Cross Country Road.
"FOTE/SVG will challenge the construction of the Cross Country Road on the grounds that it will result in irreparable damage to the Forest reserve and vital natural resources, and will impact negatively on the quality of life for the Vincentian people, now and in the future," vowed FOTE/SVG coordinator Marlon Mills Browne.
St Vincentís opposition, the New Democratic Party, has also come out strongly against the road, claiming that it is "an election gimmick" by the ruling Unity Labour Party, and accusing the government of putting "unnecessary levels of pressure" on the Taiwanese to fund this and other projects.