Government Wages War on the Environment
Here is a statement put out by members of the Jamaica Environmental Advocacy Network (JEAN) on what they are calling a “war on the environment”…
“Reeling from announcement after announcement of the pending destruction of Jamaica’s natural resources, environmentalists and sustainable tourism advocates say the Government of Jamaica is waging a relentless war on the environment. Members of the Jamaica Environmental Advocacy Network (JEAN) point to the approval of large project after large project, with insufficient attention paid to the environment.
“We had the construction of very large hotels between 2004 and 2008, and the well documented damage these developments caused. At least one closed before it was even completed, others responded to the poor economic environment by dropping their rates to rock bottom, making it difficult for local tourism operators to compete,” says Diana McCaulay, speaking on behalf of JEAN. “Then – Falmouth – the Disneyfication of an historic town, including destruction of a healthy coral reef, clearance of mangroves and sea grasses, and dredging of the sea floor. Associated with this project was the clear cutting of a watershed area in close proximity to the Martha Brae River, to quarry marl for the cruise ship pier construction. This has been followed by plans to quarry Puerto Bueno Mountain on the North Coast – one of the last remaining stands of dry limestone forest on the north coast, the planned annihilation of the Palisadoes tombolo by a four-lane highway, all within the Palisadoes/Port Royal Protected Area and without an Environmental Impact Assessment or public consultation, plans for large scale quarrying in the Braziletto Mountains and a new limestone export port at Rocky Point, Clarendon and now the news that the pristine area of Font Hill will also be the subject of unsustainable, inappropriate large scale tourism development.”
JEAN contends that the GOJ has spent millions of dollars on several plans, including the South Coast Sustainable Development Plan and Programme, the Sustainable Tourism Master Plan, and the SW Coast Development Plan all of which called for a different model of tourism development for the south coast that tourism interests, local communities and environmental groups agree would be sustainable and more beneficial for local people. The National Ecological Gap Assessment Report identifies Font Hill and environs as a triple priority. Furthermore, the GOJ has also signed international agreements and conventions to protect biological diversity. JEAN insists that at the very least, the GOJ should adhere to its own plans and policies and the international treaties it has signed. “We have seen the environmental destruction on the north coast, and the social problems of exclusion, displacement, crime and poverty – and we understood that lessons had been learned and it would be done differently on the south coast and different going forward,” says Ms. McCaulay.
Tourism stakeholders of the south coast, national environmental agencies and local community groups are calling on the GOJ to rethink this short term, unsustainable strategy for Jamaica’s development. JEAN will be seeking an urgent meeting with Prime Minister Bruce Golding, now the Minister of the Environment, and Minister Edmund Bartlett, Minister of Tourism to outline these urgent concerns and seek a new approach.
For more information please contact:
Diana McCaulay, Jamaica Environment Trust, 469-1315 or Dr. Byron Wilson, Dept. of Life Sciences, UWI, 870-2392 or Wendy Lee, Northern Jamaica Conservation Association, 359-1505