The Access Initiative: Focus on the Palisadoes Highway Development

The Access Initiative (TAI) is a global coalition of civil society groups working to promote better access to information, participation, and justice in national‐level decisions that affect the environment in over 50 countries.

Toward this end, the Jamaica Environment Trust (JET) convened TAI for Jamaica in 2013. TAI Jamaica has produced a detailed report assessing the state of Jamaica’s laws relating to biodiversity protection with a focus on access to information, public participation and access to justice. The results from this assessment will be used to advocate for more transparent, accountable, and sustainable environmental decision‐making in both policy and practice.

JET, in partnership with the Windsor Research Centre, Caribbean Coastal Area Management Foundation (CCAM) and the North Cockpit Country Local Forest Management Committee assessed the state of access rights in Jamaica. Access rights are: Access to information, public participation and access to justice. The assessment, conducted over the period November 2013 to June 2014, was based on research using eighteen case studies that involve the use of access rights. Today we will be highlighting the Palisadoes Highway Development case study.

The Palisadoes road connecting Kingston to its international airport. Kingston Harbour is to the right of the road, the open sea to the left. Hard to imagine this as a Ramsar "wetland of international importance," isn't it? (Photo: Pierre Diaz)
The Palisadoes road connecting Kingston to its international airport. Kingston Harbour is to the right of the road, the open sea to the left. Hard to imagine this as a Ramsar “wetland of international importance,” isn’t it? (Photo: Pierre Diaz)

Palisadoes is part of the Palisadoes/Port Royal Protected Area and a wetland of international importance under the Ramsar Convention. It includes the road to the Norman Manley International Airport and natural resources: sand dunes, wetlands and coral reefs. Following a series of storms, a decision was taken in 2006 to build 310 m of revetment. An Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) and public meeting was held in 2007. In 2010, the government modified the project to include a 4 km highway, seawalls on both sides of Palisadoes and removal of mangroves. A public meeting was held days after the grant of a permit for the modified project. In 2011, JET filed a claim against the Natural Resources Conservation Authority (NRCA) and National Environment and Planning Agency (NEPA) challenging the decision to approve the modified project prior to disclosing all environmental information and holding the public meeting. The Court granted declarations that NEPA breached the legal standard for consultation and breached the legitimate expectation that all environmental information relating to the development of the Palisadoes would be disclosed to the public and JET before approval was granted. The Court also ruled that the beach licenses issued were sufficient to cover the scope of work for the project.

Footnote: Jamaican independent filmmaker Esther Figueroa made a powerful and sad twelve-minute video of the work on the Palisadoes. I find it painful to watch at times. You will find the link to it here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5uWKA17URfo

The TAI Jamaica Report was launched on November 20, 2014 in Kingston. The report was funded by the Critical Ecosystems Partnership Fund through a grant to the World Resources Institute (WRI) which is the secretariat for The Access Initiative. The report is now being circulated to key GOJ stakeholders and civil society partners.

For more information, please see the full report at JET’s website: http://www.jamentrust.org/advocacy-a-law/advocacy-law-publications/the-access-initiative-report.html

The smiling faces of the wonderful, hard-working JET team.
The smiling faces of the wonderful, hard-working JET team.

Support the Jamaica Environment Trust! They are doing important work, and 2014 was another year of achievement for the “Jetters.” Most importantly of all, please support their campaign to prevent the destruction of Goat Islands and the surrounding area by a planned transshipment port to be built by China Harbour Engineering Company. More updates on that situation soon, but meanwhile please go to http://savegoatislands.org for full and regularly updated information.

Mangrove trees in a lagoon at sunset in the Portland Bight Protected Area of Jamaica. (Photo: Robin Moore)
Mangrove trees in a lagoon at sunset in the Portland Bight Protected Area of Jamaica. (Photo: Robin Moore)

 


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