NEGRIL ON THE VERGE OF A MAJOR CRISIS - SAYS WHEATLEY

Release Date: 
Monday, May 12, 2014 - 09:00

Opposition Spokesperson for the Environment, Dr. Andrew Wheatley, today called on the Minister of Environment, the Honourable Robert Pickersgill to wake up and immediately address mounting concerns with plans to construct a controversial breakwater system off the famous Negril coastline.  Dr. Wheatley warned that if the Minister does not urgently intervene, Jamaica will face the national and international consequences of a damaging economic and environmental decision.

Dr. Wheatley said “ While the Opposition appreciates the need to urgently preserve and rehabilitate the Negril coastline, we are seriously concerned about the way in which the initiative has been handled.”

Dr. Wheatley urged Minister Pickersgill to address several major concerns and specifically, to quickly and comprehensively explore Beach Nourishment as an alternative to the breakwater system. This, he said, is a more effective way to handle beach erosion, as it is a long term solution (20 + years), less expensive and environmentally friendly.  He said it was also important to note that Negril stakeholders have indicated a strong interest in helping to fund a comprehensive beach nourishment program which has seen success in Cuba and many other countries.

Dr. Wheatley’s recommendations have come out of  (i) consultations with a broad group of Negril stakeholders over the weekend (ii) a review of the position by the National Environment and Planning Agency (NEPA) matter, and (iii) an analysis of worldwide trends for coastline protection initiatives.

Among the further concerns raised by Dr. Wheatley are:

1.The absence of an Economic Impact study into the effects of pursuing the highly technical and disruptive project that NEPA says will run for nine months. Dr. Wheatley noted that the community fears a major downturn in its crucial tourism product and likely job losses. This he said will have a negative impact on the Jamaican economy including a reduction in needed tax revenue and cause pain to the many families and sectors that rely on Negril’s tourism industry.
2.  The lack of genuine consultation by NEPA with Negril stakeholders including Hoteliers and what appears to be a gross lack of concern about the very serious issues raised by them in the public domain. The gross lack of consultation resulted in Negril stakeholders placing a full page advertisement in the press highlighting its objection to the planned project.
3.     A heavily criticized, incomplete and possibly flawed Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA).

4.     The Breakwater system plan only addresses a one and a half mile span of the seven mile
        coastline as opposed to a Beach Nourishment option that can address the entire span,

5.     The likely damage that will be inflicted on Negril’s already fragile environment by the planned
        breakwater system.

6.     The unsightly look of the breakwater, that will permanently damage Negril’s famous coastline.

7.     Extensive criticism of the breakwater system as an effective solution to beach erosion

Dr. Wheatley also called on the government to intensify and effectively coordinate its efforts to improve Negril’s environment on a whole.   In closing, he stated “With Negril being a massive contributor to Jamaica’s economy especially in terms of tax revenue and employment, the government must see the national importance of ensuring that it does the right thing. Seven Miles of white sand should not be treated this way.”

 

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