Mon | Jul 15, 2019

Patria-Kaye Aarons | NEPA is just too nice

Published:Wednesday | April 10, 2019 | 12:13 AM

Remember that peacemaking pushover from high school? The child that would never stand up for himself (and, Father forbid, for anyone else). The goodie-two-shoe who was perpetually afraid of ruffling anyone’s feathers and endured all kinds of abuses because they were ’non-confrontational’? I feel like that people pleaser is NEPA (National Environment and Planning Agency). It is just too nice. And it sucks!

Newsflash: NEPA, no one expects you to be nice. In fact, if you’re too nice, you’ll be grossly ineffective at your job. A job we all depend on you to do well for our own survival today and for the preservation of Jamaica for our children and grandchildren tomorrow. And you’ve been letting us down. Over and over again.

The last two instances were the fire in the vicinity of Riverton and the dust issue in St Elizabeth with the bauxite plant.

Let me bring my readers up to speed, if they don’t already know the instances I’m referring to. Recently, it appears tyres were on fire close to Riverton in St Andrew yet again. It’s a semi-residential area, so with the billowing black smoke, children attending the basic schools nearby were wheezing, homes stank from the unpleasant odour, smoke made roads dark and dangerous, business productivity in the area slowed, and there could be nothing healthy about inhaling smog yet again.

But we’ve been here before; several times yearly for the last however many years. And we still can’t put a stop to it? How hard is it to drive around, spot a heaping pile of tyres, or an illegal dumping site, order it be removed, and charge whoever is responsible to whatever extent the law allows?

How many more times must this happen before action is taken? And if you give instructions for removal, who returns to check they are gone and properly disposed of in a way that satisfies that our protection laws are adhered to?

The people of Nain in St Elizabeth are living under a virtual dust cloud. They are being paid J$7,500 per dust (whatever the heck that means) … and only after they make complaints about respiratory issues that are verified by a JISCO Alpart company-paid doctor.

NO COMPROMISE

St Elizabeth is perpetually windy. For heaven’s sake, they have a wind farm there. So it isn’t rocket science to assume that mining for bauxite in a windy parish will cause dust if you don’t take the necessary mitigating steps.

It was under these very assumptions that NEPA insisted that the licence was provisioned, provided that certain preventative measures were put in place to curtail the dust pollution, as the bauxite plant conducted operations.

But why isn’t NEPA checking itself to ensure that these measures are being adhered to? Why is it depending on JISCO or the residents to report when they have breached these terms? Why is NEPA relying on dust readings provided by JISCO? You expect them to tell on themselves? This makes no sense.

And so the people of Nain choke.

There should be little to no compromise when it comes to the rules and regulations that govern our environmental protection laws. The more you bend, the softer you appear. The more lax and lenient you become, the more people will test the limits to which they can break the law.

NEPA makes recommendations in reports countless times and they are ignored. And then what do you do, NEPA?

I can’t fault hotels and illegal dump sites and building developers for breaching your rules and regulation, because you don’t enforce them.

Get tough. Grow some balls. Put your foot down. Let them call you draconian. Because the alternative is a gradual diminishing of the respect and, quite frankly, fear these entities have for you.

They do as they please because nice NEPA will never stand in their way. And it’s killing us. The ‘E’ in NEPA stands for Environment … and that’s outside your cushy air-conditioned offices. Please spend more time there. You’ll see there’s a lot to fix.

Patria-Kaye Aarons is a confectioner and broadcaster. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com and findpatria@gmail.com