Fri | Dec 9, 2016

PIOJ promises more dialogue on Negril breakwaters

Published:Friday | August 22, 2014 | 12:00 AM
Horseback riders along the Negril shoreline. A storm is brewing over a decision to install breakwaters to arrest beach erosion in Negril. - File

WHILE THE public awaits the Natural Resources Conservation Authority's (NRCA's) decision on the Negril breakwaters, the Planning Institute of Jamaica (PIOJ) has said implementation is not likely to happen without further community engagement.

PIOJ is the national implementing entity (NIE) for Jamaica's US$10-million Adaptation Fund project of which the breakwaters - intended to arrest beach erosion in the resort town - is one component.

"If they grant the licence, then clearly it is a signal that you can go. However, the NIE understands that there are many stakeholders and players in a process, and we certainly would not be taking an attitude of bullying a community, we would have to find a way to work with the community some more," said Claire Bernard, deputy director general of PIOJ.

"We are partners in a process and we have to try, as best as possible, to come to some sort of compromise that, in the end, serves some greater good. We are not in it to set ourselves up against a community," she added.

Her comments followed the July 29 public consultation, held at the community centre in Negril, to provide residents and other stakeholders with insight into the findings of the environmental impact assessment (EIA) of the breakwaters.

Deadline

The public now has 30 days from that date to provide the National Environment and Planning Agency (NEPA) - for which the NRCA is the board - with feedback that will inform their final decision on the proposed work.

Ainsley Henry, director of NEPA's Applications Management Division, said recently that the NRCA could take a decision as early as next month.

"Assuming that everything is in place, we will try to make the first Tuesday of September for [the application to be considered by] the TRC (Technical Review Committee) and the third Tuesday for the Authority [the NRCA]. That is based on the assumption that there will be no major new issues that will come up and no need for us to get additional information," he told The Gleaner.

Henry was quick to add that the decision would address only whether the work is doable, taking into account the soundness of the science and the public's input - not whether the work will ultimately be done.

"That decision is like getting a driver's licence, it is not telling you that you will be driving, it is telling you that you can drive. We are not buying you a car nor are we giving it to you," he said.

Meanwhile, despite the most recent public consultation, Negril stakeholders are still not sold on the breakwaters for which US$5.4 million is budgeted.

Less than impressed

Mary Veira, who has been involved in mobilising particularly hotel stakeholders to engage on the project, said they are less than impressed.

"The only concern they seem to have is that we have this money so we have to spend it. Whether it is the right thing or not seems to be irrelevant, no matter what we seem to say to them," she told The Gleaner more than two weeks ago.

"And basically stakeholders in Negril have said go and spend the money elsewhere if you want. And, furthermore, we have no confidence that the people designing and doing the work have the competence to do it," Veira added.

Still, programme manager with the PIOJ, Shelia McDonald Miller, remained hopeful stakeholders can come to terms on the project.

"We still think it is possible to arrive at a negotiated position on which we can move forward as partners, taking on board the viewpoint of each other and seeking, as the NIE, to mitigate the negatives," she said.

"We have to seek middle ground. It is not just about being right. We also understand you may not get the assent from all the stakeholders. We have to be mindful that there may still be persons who are opposed, but for the greater good, they might relent even though they might not embrace," McDonald Miller added.

Veira said stakeholders have no interest in going to war over the breakwaters, but insisted on beach nourishment as their preferred option.

"We don't want to be in any battle with anybody, but we want the right solution, not some solution they came up with because this is the money they have," she said.

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