Tue | Jan 26, 2021

Garth Rattray | Mining Puerto Bueno is penny wise and pound foolish

Published:Monday | November 23, 2020 | 12:06 AM
The Puerto Bueno Mountain in St Ann.
The Puerto Bueno Mountain in St Ann.

We often hear the phrase, “World without end…” Many erroneously interpret it to mean that we, human beings, will always have this planet as our habitat. However, even if we make the atmosphere toxic and cause the earth to scorch and all mammalian life dies off, the world will go on without us and repair itself eventually.

Mankind has the dubious distinction of being the single most destructive creature to inhabit this planet. We not only fly in the face of Mother Nature; we also arrogantly spit in her eyes as she patiently watches us destroy what she has given us. We always manage to justify our actions by labelling them necessary for survival of one kind or another.

We destroy huge areas of the Amazon rainforest every year and say that doing so is essential for providing building material and farmland. We overfish the oceans and say that we need to do so to feed people. We burn fossil fuel, pollute the air that we must breathe and contribute significantly to global warming, and say that we need the energy. And we mine environmentally important areas and say that we desperately need the income and we need to provide jobs.

However, every time we destroy the environment and natural resources, we chip away at our own future. Puerto Bueno is one of our environmental resources.

In a August 4, 2019 piece, the Sunday Observer referred to Puerto Bueno as “The zone, which lies between Discovery Bay and Rio Bueno incorporates the Puerto Bueno Mountain and has been widely recognised as an environmental treasure. The forested mountain is a habitat for rare and endangered species of endemic plants, birds, insects, and the Jamaican boa or yellow snake.

The scenic beauty of the area has attracted tourism stakeholders to the area who have constructed villas along the coast, as well as other residents who have made their homes there.”

The Puerto Bueno area is coveted by several entities. Environmentalists want to keep it as pristine as possible to preserve the habitat for the atmospheric benefits that it provides and for the unique and/or protected flora and fauna living there. Hydrologists want to keep as much undisturbed limestone as possible there to filter and help purify water resources. Housing solutions/real estate developers, tourism concerns and citizens want to maintain the natural beauty and splendid investment that living near such magnificence provides.

SIGNIFICANT TO JAMAICA

Because keeping this area at its natural best is so significant to Jamaica, the Northern Jamaica Conservation Association received a grant from the Jamaican Forestry Department and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN in 2006. It was “to facilitate a discussion process on how to best preserve one of the last relatively undisturbed areas of dry limestone forest along the northern coast of Jamaica”.

The residents in that area have had to fight off repeated efforts to resume (open) mining at Rio Bueno. Because of environmental concerns, the National Environment and Planning Agency recently ruled against the application. However, ostensibly, because of dire financial problems brought about by the pandemic, the prime minister has given the green light to quarry mining, while keeping in mind a long list of rules that should be adhered to.

Whereas most of us can understand his desperation, it must be highlighted that there can be no promise of safeguard from dust nuisance and dust pollution. No one can promise that the innumerable, loud trucks going back and forth will not constantly disturb the peace, tranquillity and right to enjoy one’s home that each and every citizen is guaranteed in the Constitution. The necessary blasting is certain to rattle homes and nerves, and property value will fall. There is bound to be permanent destruction of over a quarter of that special habitat to some of our protected and unique plants and animals.

So, we will earn much-needed tax dollars and provide jobs for a while. However, the long-term cost to Jamaica includes irreparable destruction of a vital environmental zone, plummeting of past, present and any future real estate value, and a veritable living hell for all citizens residing nearby. I hope that the prime minister will see the long-term and permanent negative consequences and rethink his decision.

Garth A. Rattray is a medical doctor with a family practice. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com and garthrattray@gmail.com.