Here’s a follow-up on the difficult and confusing situation that unfolded this week regarding the removal of sand from Rutland Point in Negril. 60,000 cubic metres of sand, to be precise, to be used at a mega-development in Llandovery, St. Ann. The clay and peat that covered it was reportedly “dumped.” Isn’t it amazing how careless developers in general are with the environment? A few trees chopped down here and there, building material dumped in the sea, sand removed from beaches, boulders from rivers… No matter! It won’t affect anything.
Firstly, yesterday evening we saw a copy of an order from Minister of Water, Land, Environment and Climate Change Robert Pickersgill for the work to end. It was tweeted by a journalist.
Secondly, there are reports of an “emergency meeting” called by the Chair of NEPA John Junor yesterday, with representatives of the three government ministries involved (did they liaise with each other?) and the developers, the Mexico-based Karisma. It reportedly ended without a solution to what is now being called an “impasse.” But how on earth has it come to this? What went wrong? Besides Mr. Pickersgill’s ministry, the Ministry of Mining and Energy headed by Philip Paulwell and the Tourism Ministry headed by Dr. Wykeham McNeill are involved. The silence of Minister McNeill in particular is puzzling. Not only is he the Tourism Minister, he is also the Member of Parliament for the Negril area (which also borders on Western Hanover, Ian Hayles’ constituency). Nor have we heard anything from NEPA. Are they in the “hot seat”?
Well, there is no doubt that a Quarrying license was issued on Christmas Eve – as confirmed by Commissioner of Mines Clinton Thompson. You can see it for yourself on the Gleaner website at http://go-jamaica.com/Mines/index.html But where is the environmental permit, without which the license could not be approved?
Meanwhile, the developers are strongly hinting that they might pull out of Jamaica – hence the emergency meeting. This was inevitable. The planned hotel development in St. Ann is a huge one (US$900 million worth) as I noted in my blog yesterday. The Commissioner of Mines says Karisma did nothing illegal. Karisma is clearly extremely upset.
Now the Opposition Spokesman for the Environment Daryl Vaz has jumped into the fray. I hope he will be making some enquiries and trying to get to the bottom of this. He is starting to ask some questions.
Naturally, the Negril Chamber of Commerce (NCC) wants the sand back. It does not belong to the Mexican company, they say; it belongs to Jamaicans. Here is their press release of January 14. At the time of writing they have not received any response from NEPA. The Jamaica Environment Trust (JET) supports the NCC, as noted in my previous post.
BRING BACK OUR SAND – SAYS NEGRIL CHAMBER
The Negril Chamber of Commerce (NCC) in a statement today called for the significant quantity of sand taken from the Long Bay area to be brought back to Negril where it rightfully belongs. With not much being done to address the damage to our ecosystems that lead to erosion, it is imperative that it be returned post haste.
At the monthly NCC meeting held Tuesday January 12, 2016, NEPA was well represented by among others, the following senior officers:
Leonard Francis – Director, Spatial Planning Division
Morjorn Wallock – Director, Legal and Enforcement Division
Anthony Mckenzie – Director, Environmental Management and Conservation
Sheries Simpson – Projects Manager
Diana McPherson – Senior Planner
When the subject of sand mining was raised, none of them had knowledge of any such activity or environmental permits issued for this activity.
A representative of the hotel where the alleged breach is taking place was also present at the meeting. At no time did he offer to clarify the situation, over which there was lengthy and heated discussions. The NCC is aware that this same hotel group is going to be adding a significant number of hotel rooms over the next ten years on land acquired in St. Ann. “Is this where our sand has been sent?” – the Chamber questioned.
The NCC has been reliably informed that they have produced a quarry license issued by the Commissioner of Mining.
If this is true, the NCC is horrified that ANY Government of Jamaica agency could give a license for removal of sand without stringent environmental checks. Furthermore, where is the environmental permit for this quarry license?
The NCC has sent a few emails today to Peter Knight, NEPA’s CEO. He has not yet acknowledged receipt nor replied.
In my last blog post, I observed that many of our local bureaucrats, politicians – and the developers with dollars in their eyes – seem not to care one jot about climate change. I would like to add this question: How can the Government of Jamaica be holding its hand out, seeking money for climate change adaptation, while it is busy allowing beaches to be destroyed and bauxite mining operations to forage into precious watersheds like the Cockpit Country? And all the while touting plans to build a transshipment port in a protected area (perhaps with a nice coal-fired plant), destroying mangroves, coral reefs, sea grass beds, fish sanctuaries and more. Let us be aware of the past depredations of the Spanish hoteliers, and the ongoing ambitions of Chinese highway builders, who are given large tracts of prime land to do with as they wish. Are we just going to continue like this? Until between our Government, our investors (whose every wish must be obeyed) and climate change our island has been ravaged from top to bottom?
Dear Government of Jamaica: Have you heard of something called Sustainable Development?
Sorry. I had to get all that off my chest. Sometimes I feel I am choking on all the hypocrisy; all the secrecy; all the incompetence; all the confusion, manufactured or otherwise.
I will now go and take a few aspirin. What a headache!