It was a nightmarish weekend in the global news, but there were glimmers of hope at home. Just little glimmers…a flickering at the end of a dark tunnel. Maybe.
Mixed signals on Goat Islands: During a rambling and mostly forgettable speech on Sunday at the People’s National Party (PNP) conference, our Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller said her government ”will do everything in our power” to make the logistics hub a reality. She mentioned “sustainable development” in the same breath; although I doubt whether many of our politicians actually know what that means in real, practical terms. It’s just another lovely catchphrase. Meanwhile, comments from Chair of the Urban Development Corporation (UDC) and government Senator K.D. Knight, surprised me. He reportedly said at another event: “We [the Government] are just the trustees; it doesn’t belong to us. We must insist on environmental process and constructive views expressed must be heeded.” At least he is listening. Though I am not sure that it gives me hope. But the UDC does actually own Goat Islands.
And I wonder why? A presentation by China Harbour Engineering Company (CHEC) to the Jamaica Chamber of Commerce (JCC), held at JAMPRO’s offices yesterday evening, did not include the proposed Goat Islands development, which had been advertised in the JCC’s invitation. CHEC representatives just presented a nice PR piece, and stopped. This surprised many businesspeople attending the reception for a CHEC delegation that arrived yesterday. CHEC is a major sponsor of Jamaica’s Engineering Week and a participant in the Jamaica Institute of Engineers conference.
CHEC jobs: By the way (as I know this is an issue for some) the company employs 67% Jamaicans in its projects here (so far).
Should we be worried about the government missing an IMF deadline on tax reform legislation? I must listen to Ralston Hyman’s radio program more often…
Mad bus drivers: Early this morning, three vehicles, including an apparently speeding/racing minibus filled with students crashed into each other in Chudleigh, Manchester. Three students of Holmwood Technical High School and one of the bus drivers died. 22 others are in hospital. This terrible event pushes up the number of fatalities on our roads this year; it is also, I understand, the fourth major bus crash involving students from this school in recent years. The police need to get a grip on this – there is clearly a problem in Manchester. I wish we had those big, solid school buses like they have in the U.S.
Did the PNP really think it appropriate to present an award to then Chairman of the Electoral Commission of Jamaica (ECJ) Dr. Herbert Thompson at the party’s 75th anniversary awards ceremony last week? The Percival Patterson Award, no less presented by PJ Patterson, former PNP President/Prime Minister. What was actually inscribed on the award? Well, yesterday Dr. Thompson resigned. I am among those who believe, in the interests of good governance and balance within this critical organization, that he should step down as a board member too.
The ECJ’s recommendations on campaign financing had a rough ride in Parliament yesterday, with at least two Opposition members raising objections. The matter is now going to a parliamentary committee. What hypocrisy, though. As civil society activist Carol Narcisse says, we don’t want any more excuses! They keep thinking up new ones!
Police killings remain high: Some 172 persons have been killed by members of the security forces since the start of the year, the Independent Commission of Investigations (INDECOM) has said. At the end of September last year there were 158 fatalities, so we are well up on last year. The Mayor of Savannah-la-Mar has, by the way, just denied that he advised the police to “shoot first, ask questions later,” as reported in the Gleaner. It is hard to keep a cool head in the face of all the crime, though. But let us try, please.
More thieving: Talking of criminal acts, the level of thievery in Jamaica has reached epidemic proportions. Yesterday, 2,500 customers of the Jamaica Public Service Company were without power, after thieves stole oil from one of their installations. For years, it seems, firms like LIME have been complaining of theft and the high cost of replacing copper wires, batteries and so on. What is going on? Who is receiving/buying/using this valuable equipment? Is it still for the scrap metal trade? The police just don’t seem to be on top of this. It certainly doesn’t encourage potential investors, does it.
Stop whining, young man: Current leader of the Opposition Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) Andrew Holness is complaining that certain people in the party are “undermining” him, etc., etc. His colleague Audley Shaw is, as we know, challenging him for the leadership position. Please stop whingeing and encouraging divisiveness, Mr. Holness (or are you following a time-honored tradition in the JLP?) The date of the party’s annual conference has now been brought forward to November 3.
Talking of young politicians, I hear some are busy building mansions in Beverley Hills. How nice.
One always hopes that the young politicians will behave differently from the older ones, but alas… I guess they just don’t have great role models, do they?
Ssssshhh… It’s tourism: I wrote recently about serious accidents involving jet skis in our tourist resorts, which appear to have been “hushed up.” Jamaican friends of ours taking a break at a north coast hotel last weekend heard shots fired on the beach. Apparently two boats landed on the beach; the occupants attempted to rob tourists. No injuries it seems. But I must ask: How often are such security-related incidents occurring, and do we feel comfortable about them being kept under wraps? Well, I guess we are protecting Brand Jamaica, right?
A huge round of applause for a bunch of people here:
- All those engaged in the fight against HIV/AIDS (too numerous to mention) in Jamaica over the last ten or twenty years, who have really made a difference. The number of new infections and deaths in the Caribbean is significantly down. The persistent efforts of government, non-governmental organizations, communities and individuals have paid off. I should not single out any one person or organization, but have to say that I am particularly proud of the work of the President’s Emergency Fund for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), established by President George W. Bush and continued under the Obama administration. I administered the U.S. State Department‘s portion of this Fund for a number of years in Jamaica and I know that it has made – and continues to make – an impact on thousands of lives. Visit http://www.pepfar.gov for more details.
- Ms. Tessanne Chin, who was the darling of the Jamaican Twittersphere last night as she auditioned in a U.S. network show called “The Voice.” I generally avoid these talent show thingys and this one was predictably tacky, with lots of red leather and shiny chrome and glass, plus squealing audience of course. Some of us were mesmerized by the bald head of a panelist called Cee-Lo, which was covered with tattoos. Others swooned over panelist Adam Levine. Meanwhile, our Jamaican girl sang her heart out. She was amazing (I am not being biased here, honest!) with more than a touch of the Tina Turners. I think she will go far on this show. Jamaicans are truly proud of her.
- Amber Estates, coffee growers who have landed a deal with Starbucks to sell their Blue Mountain coffee beans online. There is so much potential in our delicious coffee!
- Senator Marlene Malahoo Forte, who conducts her radio talk show “Justice” on Power 106 FM with great courtesy and thoughtfulness. Recommended listening!
- Non-governmental and community-based organizations should apply for the GEF Small Grants Program: http://www.youthjamaica.com/content/apply-gef-small-grants-programme
- And please – if you have not already done so, sign and share the petition to save the Portland Bight Protected Area (Goat Islands) from destruction here: http://www.change.org/petitions/no-to-port-on-goat-island-jamaica-no-trans-shipping-port-portland-bight-protected-area-jamaica?share_id=eqkTTbjcGd&utm_campaign=autopublish&utm_medium=facebook&utm_source=share_petit
Here is something to think about, from Transparency International: Countries that are more open, accountable & uphold rule of law have better education, health, access to clean water & sanitation.
A teenager was murdered in the inner city area of Grant’s Pen. My condolences to the families and friends of these Jamaicans who have been murdered in the past three days:
Peter McLeod, 16, Grant’s Pen, Kingston
Samuel Shepherd, 53, Molynes Road, Kingston
Garfield Wilson, 45, Waterloo District, St. Catherine
Andrew Walker, 39, May Pen, Clarendon
Killed by police:
Kemar Brown, Victoria Street, downtown Kingston
Related links and articles:
http://jamaicajournal.wordpress.com/2013/09/24/murder-rate-soars/ Murder rate “soars”: Jamaican Journal
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/latest/article.php?id=48178 Murders spike in most police divisions: Gleaner
http://www.indecom.gov.jm/Statistics/Third%20Quarter.pdf Independent Commission of Investigations: Police shooting incidents, July – September, 2013
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/editorial/Tackle-the-crime-monster–PM_15120007 Tackle the crime monster, PM: Jamaica Observer editorial
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Gov-t-to-press-ahead-with-logistics-hub–Gov-t-to-press-ahead-with-logistics-hub Government to press ahead with logistics hub: Jamaica Observer
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Knight-urges–careful–approach-to-use-of-Goat-Islands_15132903 Knight urges “careful” approach to use of Goat Islands: Jamaica Observer
http://go-jamaica.com/pressrelease/item.php?id=2460 China Harbour Engineering Company participates in Engineer’s Week 2013
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130925/lead/lead1.html Whiteman stunned as ECJ chairman resigns: Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130925/lead/lead2.html Warmington: We can’t impose any more burdens on the poor – parliamentarians reject campaign finance proposals: Gleaner
http://www.worldbank.org/en/news/feature/2013/09/18/caribbean-quality-education-improvements-next-generation How to improve quality of education in the Caribbean for the next generation? World Bank
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130924/cleisure/cleisure1.html Make the shift permanent, Madam PM: Gleaner editorial
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130924/cleisure/cleisure3.html How governance works: Gordon Robinson column/Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130925/cleisure/cleisure2.html Richard…the hapless servant: George Davis column/Gleaner
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Jamaica-on-target-for-IMF-review-Monday–despite-missed-deadline_15134007 Jamaica on target for IMF review Monday, despite missed deadline: Jamaica Observer
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/business/Blue-Mountain-coffee-grower-lands-Starbucks-deal_15131690 Blue Mountain coffee grower lands Starbucks deal: Jamaica Observer
http://digjamaica.com/blog/2013/09/23/industry-update-summer-tourist-season-prospects-bright-or-not/ Industry update: Summer tourist season prospects bright or not? diGJamaica.com
http://www.ict-pulse.com/2013/09/transformational-nature-ict-advantage-it/ The transformational nature of ICT: Are we taking advantage of it? ICT Pulse
http://www.solarbuzzjamaica.com/2013/09/gone-with-the-wind-blue-mountain-renewables-looks-to-blow-down-energy-costs/ Gone with the wind: Blue Mountain Renewables looks to blow down energy costs: solarbuzzjamaica.com
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130924/lead/lead3.html Nearly 600 arrested in JPS anti-theft campaign: Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130924/letters/letters3.html Commish apologizes to Customs boss: Letter to Gleaner
http://www.jis.gov.jm/news/leads-117/35109 PM says permanent memorial at UN is great and fitting tribute: Jamaica Information Service
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/To-protect-and-serve To protect and serve: Police building new house for 86-year-old woman in Rose Town: Jamaica Observer
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/latest/article.php?id=48186 Human trafficking trial of businesswoman pushed back: Gleaner
http://www.jis.gov.jm/news/leads-117/35109 Community members must be more proactive in reporting child abuse – CDA: Jamaica Information Service
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/latest/article.php?id=48206 Caribbean records decline in new HIV/AIDS cases – new UN report: Gleaner
Last time I visited Fort Rocky, along the road to Port Royal, I was in the company of archaeologist Heidi Savery and a band of intrepid Jamaican and American scholars and students. Yesterday could not have been more different. I was helping out at the registration tent of the Jamaica Environment Trust (JET), who organized one of the major activities for International Coastal Clean Up Day, September 21. The government’s National Environment & Planning Agency was toiling away not far down the road; and much cleaning was under way at many sites around the island.
The sky was an impenetrable grey, and when I arrived at 7:30 a.m. there was not a breath of wind. The ocean was still and opaque, with no sunlight to illuminate it. The beach behind Fort Rocky is on the open sea. The mangroves of Kingston Harbour (or what’s left of them, after the depredations of China Harbour Engineering Company’s work on the airport road) lie on the other side of this narrow spit of land. We set up in our tent, and waited for the invasion to begin.
Indeed, a veritable army of mostly young people descended on us throughout the morning – roughly two thousand, far more than expected. Eventually JET ran out of gloves and we at the registration table ran out of free bananas and other stuff. The early volunteers arrived and got straight to work. The later ones (including a horde of university students) found what work they could and then retreated inside the Fort Rocky compound for some relaxation (as is often the case in Jamaica, there was a certain amount of socializing). And we actually had to ship out some groups to a nearby site, as we were, as they say, “over-capacity.”
Meanwhile, the unruly pile of filled garbage bags slouched, and spread, and grew steadily higher until it was as tall as the tallest of us.
Some time after lunch, the Fort was quiet again. We could hear the sound of the waves. And the beach… Well, not a scrap of paper or plastic to be found.
Congratulations and thanks to the fantastic Jamaica Environment Trust team (led by energetic Program Director Suzanne Stanley), the amazing sponsors and all the great volunteers for making this a memorable day! I have added a few photos below – you can find a photo album on my Facebook page, too.
Related links and articles:
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130922/news/news4.html Huge turnout for International Coastal Cleanup Day: Sunday Gleaner
http://petchary.wordpress.com/2013/08/28/unprecedented-response-to-international-beach-clean-up-day-in-jamaica/ Unprecedented response to International Beach Cleanup Day in Jamaica: petchary.wordpress.com
http://petchary.wordpress.com/2013/01/19/reduce-reuse-recycle/ Reduce, reuse, recycle: petchary.wordpress.com
http://petchary.wordpress.com/2013/02/02/pollution-flowing-from-land-to-sea-the-un-caribbean-environment-programme-part-1/ Pollution flowing from land to sea: The UN Caribbean Environment Programme,, Part 1
http://petchary.wordpress.com/2013/09/06/lets-save-jamaicas-portland-bight-protected-area/ Let’s save Jamaica’s Portland Bight Protected Area: petchary.wordpress.com
http://www.upworthy.com/people-should-know-about-this-awful-thing-we-do-and-most-of-us-are-simply-unaware?g=3&c=ufb1 Trailer for “Midway,” a powerful documentary directed by Chris Jordan on the impact on wildlife of trash in our oceans. To donate to the makers of this film, please visit midwayfilm.com.
The Portland Bight Protected Area (the PBPA) is the largest protected area on the island of Jamaica. It was created in 1999 by the Jamaican Government under the Natural Resources Conservation Act. It encompasses 1,876 sq km of coastal land and sea, including cays such as the Goat Islands. It is home to birds, iguanas, crocodiles, manatees, sea turtles and fish, as well as other flora and fauna. It includes three fish sanctuaries and endangered habitats such as dry limestone forest and mangrove.
This large area of diverse landscapes and natural treasures is now threatened by reported plans for a proposed logistics hub/trans-shipment port to be constructed by China Harbour Engineering Company. There is a petition site where you may register your concern about this here: http://chn.ge/1ecZdCO I urge you to sign and share with your friends and contacts who care about our increasingly fragile environment.
On August 23, environmentalists and civil society groups announced that they plan to take legal action against the Jamaican Government (the Ministry of Land, Environment and Climate Change and the Attorney General) after the Minister of Environment himself signaled that the project is under consideration, during a visit to China. Since then, very few details have been forthcoming; but much of the discussion has been on the outlying Goat Islands only. However, it must be emphasized that any bulldozing of the islands or dredging of the surrounding marine environment would have a devastating effect reaching far beyond this area. At this point we do not know how much larger the project plans are, although it has been reported that CHEC are looking for a total of 3,000 acres for the logistics hub. We still await details from the Jamaican Government.
DID YOU KNOW?
- The Society for the Conservation and Study of Caribbean Birds (SCSCB) has posted an extensive, beautiful photo album of the PBPA, compiled by U.S.-based naturalist Ted Lee Eubanks – 100 images! You can see this at their Facebook page (Caribbean Birds) and I am sharing a few photos below (although this blog format does not do them justice). The link to this wonderful photo album is http://tinyurl.com/mnmmpt9
- Jamaica is one of eight countries that has committed to The Nature Conservancy‘s Caribbean Challenge Initiative. This means Jamaica has committed to conserving at least 20% of its nearshore marine and coastal environments in national marine protected areas systems by 2020; and to creating a National Conservation Trust Fund endowed by new sustainable finance mechanisms (such as tourism fees), dedicated to solely to funding park management. Jamaica’s commitments (and those of private sector supporters, such as Sandals Resorts/Sandals Foundation) are here: http://www.nature.org/ourinitiatives/regions/caribbean/cci-summit-commitments.pdf As The Nature Conservancy notes, “With 70% of the population living along the coast, Caribbean lives and livelihoods directly depend upon healthy marine and coastal resources. Alarmingly, the Caribbean is increasingly threatened by development, pollution, overfishing and climate change.”
- The Portland Bight wetlands and cays are one of four designated RAMSAR sites in Jamaica, since 2006. According to the National Environment and Planning Agency (NEPA), a government agency, “The site has significant value for the country. Notably there is a range of endemic and rare plants, extensive fish life and several small coral cays.” Jamaica is a signatory to the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands of International Importance (since 1998). Note that part of one of the Jamaican RAMSAR sites, the Palisadoes – Port Royal Protected Area, was bulldozed and destroyed during the reconstruction of the airport road in 2010 through a project funded by the China Exim Bank. Jamaica’s Supreme Court ruled that NEPA breached the legal standard for the holding of public consultation for the development.
Please find below more information on this remarkable area, now threatened by development, and the great efforts of non-governmental AND government agencies, as well as overseas entities, to preserve and sustainably manage its resources:
Since the PBPA was created, it has been managed by the non-governmental organization Caribbean Coastal Area Management Foundation (C-CAM), which works with various government agencies and non-governmental organizations to ensure that the area is protected. Most importantly, C-CAM works closely with residents and other stakeholders – including farmers, fisherfolk, business people and landowners – through continuous outreach. Residents learn about – and implement – climate change mitigation, sustainable fishing, forestry and farming practices, such as rainwater harvesting. The aim is to contribute to the local economy sustainably, while improving the quality of life of residents.
C-CAM’s programs in the PBPA include a Biodiversity Conservation Program, and special attention to the dry limestone forest of the Hellshire HIlls, Portland Ridge, the Brazilletto Mountains and Kemps Hill. There is also some of this very special habitat on the Portland Bight Cays. This forest has close to 300 plant species, including 53 endemic species – that is, they exist nowhere else in the world. Why are plants important? They have many purposes and uses for humans, including their often unexplored medicinal potential. The Forestry Department has recommended that all of this precious and increasingly rare habitat be set aside for conservation purposes.
The critically endangered Jamaican Iguana also lives in the dry limestone forest. It was actually considered extinct until 1990, when it was rediscovered. The Jamaican Iguana Conservation Programme has been supported by a number of local and overseas agencies, including the International Iguana Foundation, Hope Zoo, San Diego Zoo, Fort Worth Zoo and several other zoos in the United States. The fate of this amazing and unique creature still hangs in the balance, however, due to destruction of habitat and predators such as domestic dogs. Head of the Iguana Recovery Group Dr. Byron Wilson, of the University of the West Indies, observes, “We must keep up the fight, because otherwise, the iguana will drift into extinction.” Gone forever.
C-CAM also has a Cave Conservation Programme (there are 53 known caves in the protected area, some with unique species). It established a Fisheries Management Council in 1995 to work on the many challenges for fishermen – including over-fishing, coral reef degradation, pollution and invasive species (C-CAM spearheaded a major public education program on the invasive Lion Fish, for example). With the support of government agencies, including the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries and organizations such as the California-based Seacology and UC-Rusal, three Special Fisheries Management Areas were established in 2010. C-CAM works with local gun clubs to control game bird shooting in the area; and with the government’s NEPA on a Watershed Management Programme. The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) has also partnered with C-CAM on a Climate Change Adaptation Programme, along with two government agencies – NEPA and the Planning Institute of Jamaica – in Old Harbour and Portland Cottage in particular. The coastal area is particularly vulnerable to storms.
I hope that all of this helps you to understand some facts about the Portland Bight Protected Area and that you will explore further. I do hope that wisdom will prevail.
A couple more articles:
http://repeatingislands.com/2013/09/04/i-live-for-art-an-ecocide-romance-on-youtube/ ”I live for art: an ecocide romance” on YouTube: repeatingislands.com
http://petchary.wordpress.com/2013/08/24/protecting-our-fish-earth-day-part-1-2/ Reblog from April, 2012: Opening of field office for fish sanctuaries, Salt River
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/environment/Six-reasons-against-port-on-Goat-Islands_14960085 Six reasons against port on Goat Islands: Jamaica Observer
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/environment/Jamaican-Iguana-fighting-for-survival_15000242 Jamaican Iguana fighting for survival: Jamaica Observer
The following links will provide more information on SOME of the partnerships that support/have supported this protected area:
http://www.nature.org/ourinitiatives/regions/caribbean/cci-summit-commitments.pdf Commitments Announced at the Caribbean Summit of Political and Business Leaders under the Caribbean Challenge Initiative (CCI) (British Virgin Islands; May 17 – 18, 2013)
http://larc.iisd.org/news/caribbean-states-become-biodiversity-champions/ Caribbean states become biodiversity champions: International Institute for Sustainable Development
http://www.nature.org/ourinitiatives/regions/caribbean/caribbean-summit.xml Inaugural Caribbean summit rallies support for conservation: The Nature Conservancy
http://www.seacology.org/project/60-jamaica/ Seacology project in Portland Bight/Jamaica
http://www.iguanafoundation.org/s18-107-Jamaican-Iguana-Project.aspx The International Iguana Foundation/Jamaican Iguana Project
http://www.nature.org/ourinitiatives/regions/caribbean/jamaica/index.htm The Nature Conservancy Caribbean Challenge Initiative: Jamaica
http://glispa.org/?page_id=363 Global Island Partnership: Caribbean Challenge Initiative
http://www.caribbeanbirdingtrail.org/partners/jamaica/ Caribbean Birding Trail: Partners – Jamaica
http://www.ramsar.org/cda/ramsar/display/main/main.jsp?zn=ramsar&cp=1-30-168%5E16567_4000_0__ The Annotated RAMSAR List: Jamaica
http://www.greenantilles.com/2011/12/09/wetlands-of-international-significance-in-jamaica-a-new-one-has-been-designated-another-is-being-disfigured/ Wetlands of international significance in Jamaica: A new one has been designated, another is being disfigured: greenantilles.com
All the photographs below, all taken in the Portland Bight Protected Area, are by Ted Lee Eubanks. Thanks so much to Ted for sharing these! The full album of 100 photos can be found at the “Caribbean Birds” Facebook page.