Tue | Oct 15, 2019

Peter Espeut | Too many bad habits

Published:Friday | February 15, 2019 | 12:09 AM
SeaWalk being anchored at one of the PAJ’s locations on Tuesday. SeaWalk is a floating articulating pier that is motorised and under electronic control. It unfolds to meet a ship and is anchored in a stationary position off the shore. It forms part of the development of a cruise-port terminal in Port Royal.

For the ancient Greek philosopher Aristotle (384 BC - 322 BC), virtue is not the performance of one good act, but is present when someone is in the habit (‘ethos’ in Greek) of performing good acts. Will Durant (1885-1981) summarised Aristotle’s point in these famous words: “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.”

Governments and political parties can develop a deserved reputation for being corrupt when they are observed to lurch from scandal to scandal. No government or political party can develop a deserved reputation for being against corruption by performing isolated acts of transparency. They must put systems in place that guarantee probity.

No government or political party can develop a deserved reputation for being pro-environment by taking isolated pro-environment decisions. They must put systems in place that guarantee development that is sustainable.

I, for one, am very pleased with the Holness Government’s decisions to save the Goat Islands and the Cockpit Country from destruction and to reduce pollution by banning coal-fired power plants and the importation, manufacture, distribution and possession of styrofoam and single-use plastic bags.

But my applause is muted because I am deeply concerned that structurally, the environmental portfolio is compromised by being subsumed into the super-Ministry of Economic Growth and Job Creation, where the health and integrity of natural ecosystems will be sacrificed in the name of jobs and increased gross domestic product (GDP).

My fears are being confirmed.

Last Friday (February 8),The Financial Gleaner reported that the Port Authority of Jamaica is promoting Port Royal as a new cruise destination at trade shows and in cruise industry media and that at least one cruise ship –TheDiscovery 2, operated by Marella Cruises – has been booked to make its first call on January 20, 2020.

Good news? I don’t know! The cruise ship port is proposed to be constructed at the Old Coal Wharf in the Natural Resources Conservation Act-declared Palisadoes Port Royal Protected Area (PPRPA), a wetland of global importance and declared as such under the UN RAMSAR Convention.

PORT ROYAL FLOATING PIER

In a press release on Monday, February 11, the Jamaica Environment Trust (JET) advised that “despite requests for information by JET from two state agencies – the Port Authority of Jamaica (PAJ) and the National Environment and Planning Agency (NEPA) – very few details have been forthcoming from the Government of Jamaica on the Port Royal cruise port development.

“At a meeting of the PPRPA Management Committee, at which JET was represented in December 2018, a representative of NEPA confirmed that a request for an environmental impact assessment (EIA) for the project had been sent to the PAJ; however, at the time of writing, there has been no further update from either NEPA or the PAJ on when an EIA will be done or when public consultation on the development will take place.”

The proposed pier was also the subject of a tweet by Prime Minister the Most Hon Andrew Holness last Friday (February 8), announcing, “Port Royal’s SeaWalk floating pier system is ready! ... It is currently in transit to Jamaica and will arrive here next week.”

And so, like so many irresponsible so-called ‘developers’, the Government has gone ahead and ordered a floating pier for Port Royal without any study of its impacts and with no public consultation.

On the shore will be constructed a cruise terminal building, ground transportation areas, retail facilities, and other amenities.

Will the residents of Port Royal benefit from all this, or will outside political favourites gobble up all the concessions?

TheDiscovery 2 is reported to have a capacity of over 1,800 passengers. How sustainable is this? Can little Port Royal handle so many tourists at one time? Have carrying-capacity studies been done?

This kind of anti-environmental behaviour resembles People’s National Party governments of the past. This is not a green government.

Peter Espeut is an environmentalist and development scientist. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com.