We were glad to hear the news that Dominica’s government has decided to put a temporary halt to their plans to construct an oil refinery on the island. The slated $80-million development, funded by Venezuela, had been met with opposition from the Dominica Hotel and Tourism Association, who argued that the refinery would dissuade visitors and hurt the reputation of Dominica as the “Nature Isle” of the Caribbean. Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit deferred to the DHTA, saying on a local radio station that he believed “fundamentally that the concerns raised by the DHTA cannot be overlooked” and that an environmental assessment would follow.
The Nature Isle is aptly named—awesome power and incredible beauty of nature unspoiled. Its lush mountains, indigenous population, art, craft, agro-based products, and small-scale accommodation facilities all add to the opportunity for sustainable tourism development.
But another noted that the state of projects, like the oil refinery, keep the fate of the island hanging in the balance:
A serious dichotomy [exists] between lip service to preserving and protecting its wilderness, which is the major product, and the soliciting of more cruise ships, the proposed oil refinery, and support for Japan on the whaling issue.
“If this decision sticks, it will help Dominica retain its excellent but insecure score on the Destination Stewardship Index,” says Jonathan Tourtellot, director of National Geographic’s Center for Sustainable Destinations, which conducts the survey for Traveler. Dominica tied with the Grenadines as the two most unspoiled places in the Caribbean. “Given the island’s eco-oriented visitors and active geology,” Tourtellot speculates, “a geothermal-energy plant might suit the ‘Nature Isle’ image a lot better than oil.”
Here’s hoping that this helps tip the scales toward more sustainable practices in the future from Dominica.
Photo: Jeff Clow via Flickr
- Nat Geo Expeditions