How Jamaicans Feel About the Portland Bight Protected Area


There is still no word from the Jamaican Government on the Portland Bight Protected Area (including Goat Islands) whose fate hangs in the balance. The newspapers continue to publish a range of views from contributors at home and abroad. Inevitably, other concerns (including a looming energy crisis and other serious economic matters) have stolen the headlines. But I have heard Transport and Works Minister Omar Davies say, on two occasions, that the government has not signed off on the area as the location for a proposed logistics hub. Other ministers – Minister of Environment Robert Pickersgill and Trade and Invesment Minister Anthony Hylton – have only made vague noises.

But there has been no resolution to the matter. It is still very much on the table. Let us not be fooled for one minute! This is far from a “nine-day wonder” as Jamaicans like to call it. While the silence is deafening, Jamaican civil society must remain concerned and vigilant, keep the focus, and continue to monitor the situation.

I have seen some divisive comments that it is mostly “foreigners” and Jamaicans of a particular class who are concerned about Portland Bight. This is far from the truth.  Since this issue was raised by the Jamaica Environment Trust, the Caribbean Coastal Area Management Foundation and the Jamaica Civil Society Coalition, the campaign has been supported by Jamaicans in all walks of life and all ages and backgrounds. Jamaicans in the diaspora are concerned about the future of our natural heritage and birthright, and so are Jamaicans at home. (And there is nothing wrong with having overseas supporters anyway, is there? I myself support environmental and human rights causes around the world. We are all connected).

The petition remains open, and if you have not already signed it, dear reader (whether you are at home and abroad) please consider doing so and sharing with everyone you know who would want to sign. A second petition was started on avaaz.org (also by a Jamaican) and support for this one would also be appreciated. Here are the links: https://secure.avaaz.org/en/petition/Proposed_Chinese_Logistics_Hub_on_Goats_Island_Jamaica/?snyUFab AND 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_petition

You can also “like” the Facebook page (No! To Port on Goat Island, Jamaica) here: https://www.facebook.com/groups/no.onportgoatisland/ The page is updated daily with all kinds of interesting articles and information on sustainable development issues, as well as commentary on this issue. And follow @SaveGoatIslands on Twitter.

I thought I would share a few of the comments from Jamaicans here at home on the threat to Portland Bight, taken directly from the change.org petition website. Yes, Jamaicans do feel strongly…

The Portland Bight and the Goat Island project is just another example of lazy destructive thinking by Jamaican leaders…A truly irreplaceable resource, with so much of Jamaica and Jamaica’s coastline already ravaged by pollution and exploitation, especially in the tourism sector. This would be an awful blow to our ecology. In a world that’s slowly dying from pollution, we need to protect our home.

Jamaica has few green spaces and we have not, as a country, done enough on educating our people on sustainable environment practices, as well as protecting what natural resources we have left. Development must NEVER be at the expense of our natural resources.

This is a protected environment, they can find other sites to build it.

There must be somewhere else, why not create an island in the Kingston Harbour/extend Palisadoes? Something other than destroying one of the very little protected areas left.

Jamaican fisheries, bird sanctuaries, wetlands, breathing spaces are too valuable to be destroyed by this development. Find another location.

We cannot destroy our precious heritage in this way. What about our children and grandchildren?

If this goes forward the destruction will be irreversible. To allow this to happen would be a betrayal of trust and duty for future generations. We must find another way.

It is a part of our heritage. Furthermore, politicians often sign contracts that continue to degrade Jamaican life, and it’s after everything fails that Jamaicans hear about the fine print – just like Highway 2000.

All this is going to affect us in the long run.

Get your hands off Goat Island, and learn to respect the environment, Governments of Jamaica and China.

You cannot mark a place protected, then go back and destroy it.

I believe in the protection of the environment, we must find ways for industrial development to coexist with the wellbeing of this planet. The Goat Islands are one of our most important protected areas, we should not destroy it because of some short term benefits that will be far outweighed by the negative impacts of the loss of this area in the decades to come.

This is my heritage!

This is important to me because I care about Jamaica’s environment, because the research shows that China’s “record” of development is not sustainable from an environmental standpoint, and as a small island nation we need to be very careful about how our environment is handled. In addition, the area in question which our government is prepared to allow the Chinese to have control of, is protected under an Act of the Jamaican Parliament, as well as international conventions. To give away this area under these circumstances is nothing short of criminal.

Because I am tired of seeing our natural resources sold off to the highest bidder.

It’s my country!

Jamaica is my home and I care deeply about the country and its welfare. I also care deeply about preserving endangered species such as the Jamaican Iguana.

This area is of high ecological and cultural relevance. Please leave Goat Island alone.

I got to see the Portland Bight area for myself first hand when I last went to Denbigh. It was a great experience, though brief. In my research…I learned a lot about the area and its inhabitants. It’s a crying shame that this is happening to another one of Jamaica’s natural resources.

I am signing because Goat Island is not the UDC’s or the Cabinet’s. It belongs to each and every one of us and we must have a say. I say no.

These are all cries from the heart. They speak for themselves. There are hundreds more comments from Jamaicans on the petition website.

Please add your voice, and let it be heard. Thank you.

Related articles and links:

Part of the Portland Bight Protected Area (Photo: Ted Lee Eubanks)
Part of the Portland Bight Protected Area (Photo: Ted Lee Eubanks)

 

 


8 thoughts on “How Jamaicans Feel About the Portland Bight Protected Area

  1. As a interfering ‘foreigner’ I signed. Sometimes it helps to know people around you are watching. From what I’ve read, mostly through your enlightening posts, Jamaica’s problems are manifold and pressing but there’s got to be a better way than this.

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    1. Thank you so much, Mr. Foreigner! 🙂 I agree, it can be very useful to have people on the outside watching. It’s all part of the pattern of government secrecy, lack of transparency and poor governance generally. But the good thing is that civil society is becoming more vigilant on such matters!

      Like

    1. Exactly. I feel that these are deliberate tactics (delay, keep quiet/people will forget all about it, wait for other issues to overtake it). It is the complete opposite of the pledges of transparency, accountability etc. that were announced when this administration took office! Amazing. Of course, these dishonest tactics are used in other areas too, besides this one. It is all part of the bigger picture…

      Like

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