Tue | Apr 23, 2019

Carolyn Cooper | Impotent NEPA grabbed by the balls

Published:Sunday | March 17, 2019 | 12:22 AM

I feel so sorry for Peter Knight, CEO of the National Environment and Planning Agency (NEPA). It’s a classic basket case. He and his staff have been given the proverbial basket to carry water. And they haven’t been able to find any material to waterproof the container.

I used to think that NEPA was all-powerful, three in one! According to its website, the agency was established in 2003 to “carry out the technical (functional) and administrative mandate of three statutory bodies”.

These are:

1. The Natural Resources & Conservation Authority (NRCA).

2. The Town & Country Planning Authority (TCPA).

3. The Land Development & Utilisation Commission (LDUC).

Now I see that NEPA is totally impotent. There isn’t even the slightest twitch of a muscle. Incidentally, contrary to popular opinion, the penis is not a muscle. That’s why it can’t be manipulated, so to speak, when it’s erect. It can appear to move vigorously if it’s at peak performance. But it does not have the flexibility of a muscle. The penis is like a sponge and it gets filled with blood when a man becomes sexually excited.

FLACCID MEN

NEPA was mandated to deliver eight vital services:

1. Conservation and protection (natural resources management)

2. Environmental management

3. Spatial planning

4. Compliance and enforcement

5. Applications management

6. Public education

7. Policy and research

8. Legal services and standards management

Like so many flaccid men, NEPA does not appear to have the balls to carry out its grand mission. Not enough testosterone!

The alleged ‘vision’ of the agency is to ensure that “Jamaica’s natural resources are being used in a sustainable way and that there is broad understanding of environment, planning, and development issues, with extensive participation amongst citizens and a high level of compliance to relevant legislation”.

Just ask the citizens of Discovery Bay about that!

For almost a year, the Discovery Bay Community Development Committee (CDC), led by the fearless Lee Arbouin, has heroically tried to protect their community from environmental degradation. With no help from NEPA! In fact, the agency appears to be facilitating the predatory forces that are speeding up destruction of Jamaica’s natural resources.

DOLPHIN EXCREMENT

In April 2018, the CDC discovered that a dolphin cove was to be established in Discovery Bay. What’s the appeal of these dolphin traps?

This is how the Island Routes Caribbean Adventures website advertises its ‘Dolphin Encounter Lucea’ tour: “Enter the world of these gentle bottlenose beauties with a special kiss and caress while you get a chance to make friends, touch and have an up-close experience with the dolphins”.

You would never know that these poor dolphins are held in captivity. They are forced to submit to the kisses and caresses of strangers, just like so many human victims of sex trafficking. The comparison might seem over the top. But dolphins are one of the most intelligent species on the planet. In captivity, they get depressed. Some of them even try to commit suicide when their condition becomes unbearable.

Objections to the dolphin cove in Discovery Bay were immediately raised. Scientists at The University of The West Indies Marine Lab in Discovery Bay outlined the expected problems: dolphin excrement would pollute the bay. It would have a negative impact on algae and, ultimately, on the reef.

The Fishermen’s Co-op added its voice to the protest. The Jamaica Environment Trust (JET) also sounded the alarm.

NEPA NOT SQUEALING

The CDC organised three public protests, beginning last May. They wrote to the Prime Minister but received no response. Despite all of the hard evidence about the harmful effects of the dolphin cove, in October 2018, the Government granted a permit for the operation that was, presumably, approved by NEPA. No environmental impact assessment was done and there was no consultation with the residents of Discovery Bay.

Furthermore, there is no established dolphin conservation policy for Jamaica. A draft document has languished for almost a decade. The policy requires a study of exactly how many dolphin attractions Jamaica can afford.

Environmental degradation is a very high price to pay for entertaining tourists. When our natural resources are destroyed, the same tourists we are trying to attract with kisses and caresses will stop coming.

The CDC launched a petition on Change.org to save the bay. It collected 21,524 signatures. In January 2019, the CDC was invited to meet with NEPA to discuss the possibility of revoking the permit.

The CDC opened up the meeting to other concerned organisations: JET, The Fishermen’s Co-op and residents of the town’s ‘millionaire row’ who seem to have belatedly realised that their private beaches would be flooded with dolphin doodoo.

NEPA agreed to do a water circulation test to see how quickly dolphin excrement would wash out of the bay. The agency’s board was supposed to meet on February 19, but the CDC was informed that the matter was not discussed until March 4. That same day, four dolphins were installed in cages in the bay.

It seems that well-connected tourism interests have grabbed NEPA by the balls and are squeezing very hard. And the agency is not even squealing.

- Carolyn Cooper, PhD, is a specialist on culture and development. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com and karokupa@gmail.com.