Surprise, Surprise: Environment Minister Withdraws Stop Order on the Removal of Sand From Negril


I am quickly copying this from the “Gleaner” newspaper. You may find the article at http://jamaica-gleaner.com/article/news/20160125/govt-lifts-order-barring-sand-removal-negril-property  So now we know. The “economy” (that is, foreign investment) “outweighs all other consideration” and is clearly far more important than the environment… says the Environment Minister. And “the material belongs to the developer.” Interesting that our own beaches – our white sand – actually belong to a foreign investor, and can be moved around the island. 

What are the consequences of moving a beach, by the way? See my earlier post with an article by Diana McCaulay. But hey, money comes before the environment. It wins, every time. 

Our Climate Change Minister, Robert Pickersgill, did NOT represent  Jamaica at the crucial Climate Change Conference. Meanwhile, he has bluntly declared that a tourism investment is worth a great deal more than the environment. Let's not ask for any more funds for climate change adaptation. We don't want to appear hypocritical, do we? (Photo: Jamaica Observer)
Our Climate Change Minister, Robert Pickersgill, did NOT represent Jamaica at the crucial Climate Change Conference. Now he has bluntly declared that a tourism investment is worth a great deal more than the environment. Let’s not ask for any more overseas funds for climate change adaptation. We don’t want to appear TOO hypocritical, do we? (Photo: Jamaica Observer)

The Land and Environment Minister Robert Pickersgill has withdrawn the order barring the removal of sand from premises owned by the Karisma Group for a development of a hotel in Negril, Westmoreland.

In a release late Monday evening Pickersgill said the hotel had, in fact, received a permit and “no objection” from the National Environment and Planning Agency.

“I also note the considerable and the substantial value of the project to the Jamaican economy which outweighs all other consideration,” Pickersgill said.

SEE PICKERSGILL’S FULL STATEMENT BELOW:

I have paid keen attention to the debate in the media concerning the matter of the excavated material inclusive of sand produced as a direct result of the preparation of the foundation for the hotel development by Yabyanas Limited.

The development is taking place on lands being those previously occupied by the Mahogany Inn in Negril which was sold by the U.D.C. to the Yabyanas Limited, a part of the Karisma Group for the development of a hotel.

The history of the matter is as follows:

• The Investors applied for an environmental permit to the NRCA to undertake the development and a permit was issued on the 27 day of October 2014 on certain terms and conditions.
• Condition 17 of the Permit indicated that solid waste from the development site should be disposed of at an approved facility identified by the National Solid Waste Management Authority.
• Having received the environmental permit Yabyanas Limited then proceeded to apply for the building permit for the development and obtained the services of Professional Geotechnical Engineers to undertake soil tests to ‘inter alia’ determine the type of foundation that would be best suited to the designed building, bearing in mind load bearing capacity and possible seismic activity.
• The geotechnical engineering report indicated the need for a raft type foundation which could be undertaken in different ways. The report identified carbonate material (sand), peat and clay as the below surface materials but did not quantify the amounts.
• The developer accordingly submitted its application to the Hanover Parish Council for approval.
• Work proceeded and excavation began.
• The volume of material excavated exceeded what was anticipated based on the technical report submitted in support of the Environmental Permit that was issued by the N.E.P.A. and which necessitated an application for a variation of the Permit.
• The Investor/Developer however applied to the Commissioner of Mines for a licence to transport the material (sand) excavated to another proposed hotel site owned by them in Llandovery, St. Ann. The Commissioner of Mines requested the NEPA’s opinion on the proposal to which a no objection was offered. The material I am advised belongs to the Developer.
• Subsequently, the Agency on realising that the quantity of material being excavated exceeded the amount contemplated by the Environmental Permit granted and issued a Cessation Order.

I asked the police to enforce compliance of the Cessation Order.

A number of valid questions and concerns have been taken into consideration in making my decision on this matter:

1) The antecedents to the granting of the Licence and the consultation and discussions between the regulatory bodies and representatives of the Developers;
2) Ownership of the sand;
3) The planning and environmental laws governing sand, its production, harvesting, transportation and application for beach nourishment purposes;
4) Requirements for transporting of the sand to an associated development outside of the Negril area owned by the Developer;
5) Impact of the removal of sand on the coastal ecosystems and the wider environmental management of Negril;
6) Compliance of the Developer with the planning and environmental laws, and finally;
7) The appropriateness of my enforcement of the Cessation Order issued under the NRCA Act.

As Minister, I have reviewed the entire matter and on advice have come to the following conclusions:-

1. That the Sectoral Policy Mineral 10 (SPM 10) in the Negril Green Island Area Development Order does not apply in this instance;
2. That the option pursued in construction of the foundation system was the result of engineering considerations;
3. That the material excavated belongs to the Developer.

I have also take into consideration that the Developer received all necessary valid permits and a “no objection” from the NEPA on which the Developer relied to its detriment before the NEPA sought a Cessation Order.

Having carefully reviewed all the issues and circumstances, I have decided as follows:

1. That the Licence issued by my colleague Minister of Science Technology Energy and Mining on the recommendation of the Commissioner of the Mines and Geology Division is valid;
2. There was a clear misunderstanding of the NEPA’s “no objection” which is normally associated with an Environmental Permit;
3. To allow the Developer to transfer the sand stockpiled at the site to the proposed development site in St. Ann, in accordance with the Licence granted;
4. Restrict the use of the portion of carbonate sand allocated to the St. Ann site solely to support the development and nourishment of the hotels beaches. Sale of the sand is prohibited. I also note the considerable and the substantial value of the project to the Jamaican economy which outweighs all other consideration.
5. The NRCA/NEPA have been instructed to collaborate with the Quarry Advisory Committee and the Mines and Geology Division to streamline the coordination and approval processes to avoid misunderstanding and a recurrence of any similar nature. The agreed framework and process flow are to be completed within one month and presented to me and the Ministry of Science Technology Energy and Mining for sign-off.
6. The Chief Executive Officer, of the NEPA and the Managing Director of the Mines and Geology Division to lead a process to develop a national policy on beach sand, including guidelines for importation and an accounting framework. The first draft of the policy should be produced in six months.

As a result of what I have stated, I will withdraw the Cessation Order forthwith.

Part of the stockpiled sand removed from the Negril beach. It does not belong to Jamaicans. It belongs to the investors. (Photo: Nationwide News Network)
Part of the stockpiled sand removed from the Negril beach. It does not belong to Jamaicans. It belongs to the investors. (Photo: Nationwide News Network)

13 thoughts on “Surprise, Surprise: Environment Minister Withdraws Stop Order on the Removal of Sand From Negril

  1. Most people would vent frustration and anger at the actions of Minister Robert “Bobby” Pickersgill, but just remember this is the man who for many years thought he was the “God” of transport, works, housing and development in Jamaica and in the process sold off the Causeway to overseas “developers”. Bobby is only doing what he has done for years, shafted the Jamaican people, albeit now under the guise of Protector of the Environment. He is merely a wolf in sheep’s clothing who seeks to pull the wool over our eyes. Sitting here, it is evident that Jamaica is on a fast boat to China and a slow boat to hell. The Minister has set a dangerous precedence from which there is no return. By categorically stating that the sand is owned by the developers, he has given an “accord en blanc” (blank authority) to all and sundry to strip the beaches they own for any “fit and proper purpose”. Accordingly, I am heading to Jamaica to help plunder our resources. Why should I not benefit for after all I too have foreign investment which this government (not country) so desperately needs.

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    1. You are absolutely right, Kevin. This sets a dangerous precedent, indeed. We can ignore development orders – or rather, say this was “exceptional circumstances” in this case (why?) So sand can be shipped around all over the island by whoever owns it (Mexicans, Chinese, whoever) at will. Yes, why don’t you come and join in the “free for all”!

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  2. This is surreal and mind-boggling in the extreme! For an Environment Minister to even conjure up the thought or idea in his/her brain that ‘the substantial value of the project to the Jamaican economy which outweighs all other consideration’ leaves one flabbergasted. So… we can degrade the environment and the natural beauty and resources of Jamaica to the nth degree, but it’s alright, because the money outweighs everything else. I can’t even find the words to express how sad and disturbing and disgusting this is!

    Oh Lord….!

    Ronald V. Sullivan Woodside, St. Mary

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    1. Yes. Well, now the Environment Minister has told us – we know what to expect! I suppose this is a precedent, although we should have really already known that in the so-called “balance” between money and our precious Mother Earth, money wins, every time (climate change or no climate change). Staggering. Yes, surreal it is indeed. Thank you for your comments (I know, last night when this statement came out I was similarly lost for words!)

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  3. wow. Education matters. Thanks for this. I accept that it is destructive! I am called to be a steward of the environment. In the Anglican church the 5th mark of mission is preserving the creation ( environment).

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  4. Shame on the JAMAICA GOVERNMENT.it is an absolute disgrace that they allow these investors to destroy our island home.They may as well put up a big for sale sign that can be see from outer space.Island for sale to the highest investor.what happens when there is no island left? Jamaicans don’t even have public beaches to go to any more.

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    1. Well, the Ministry of Tourism does have a public beach upgrade program which is under way, ironically. But let’s not blame the investors, 100 per cent. They are just interested in making money. It’s up to our Government to consider investment proposals carefully and follow the laws of the land! They don’t have to say “yes, sir” to everyone!

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