Minister, Please Reconsider Your UNESCO Biosphere Decision

I think the following open letter speaks for itself… I am posting it here, in case Jamaican media do not see fit to publish it. 

I wrote about the biosphere issue here:

OPEN LETTER: To Minister Pickersgill

22 March, 2014

Hon. Robert Pickersgill
Minister of Land, Water, Environment and Climate Change

Dear Mr. Pickersgill,

We urge you to reconsider your position on Jamaica’s application to UNESCO for biosphere reserve status for the Portland Bight Protected Area. In December 2013, just one month after submitting the application to UNESCO, your office requested a deferral of the application on the basis of a need to revisit the zoning of the area. Mr. Pickersgill, you are aware that the preparation of the biosphere reserve application took over fifteen years of work by Caribbean Coastal Area Management Foundation (C-CAM) and its partners, including the GOJ, and you signed the application on behalf of the GOJ.

As participants in this process, Minister, you and your staff should have been aware of the benefits of biosphere reserves to Jamaica. The emphasis on sustainable development within a biosphere reserve provides economic benefits directly to the poorest of the nation. The establishment of research facilities, opportunities for nature and heritage tourism, support for new small/medium businesses, sustainable agriculture and other activities associated with a biosphere reserve are more conducive to sustainable economic growth than would be a transshipment port in the Portland Bight.

As Minister of Climate Change you must know that development of a major port in the PBPA will greatly impact the vulnerability of the area to major storms, which primarily come in from the south-southeast towards Jamaica. The Goat Islands, coral reefs and the mangrove forests of the PBPA act as a buffer for storms and tidal surges. Maintaining the natural ecosystems of the Portland Bight is necessary not only for protecting infrastructure, but more importantly for saving lives. Given the increased urbanization that would occur in the PBPA as a result of situating a transshipment port in the Portland Bight, the loss of natural shoreline protection would mean a greater risk to residents as well as infrastructure.

Minister Pickersgill, the impacts of climate change are inevitable. Shouldn’t your Ministry be trying to reduce them rather than increase them?

We therefore request that you allow the application for biosphere reserve status for the Portland Bight Protected Area to go forward as before, in the best interests of the people of Jamaica — especially those whose livelihoods and safety will be at stake.

Yours truly,

Steven G. Smith
Campaign Organizer for Petition/Face Book
NO! to port on Goat Islands/PBPA, Jamaica

Jamaica Environment Trust

Lisa Sorenson, Ph.D
Executive Director
(formerly the Society for the Conservation and Study of Caribbean Birds).

Wendy A Lee
Seven Oaks Sanctuary for Wildlife

Horace Levy

Emma Caroline Lewis

Ingrid Parchment
Executive Director of CCAM.
Dr. Ann Sutton Consultant.

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