NEPA presses on despite challenges
Chief executive officer of the National Environment and Planning Agency (NEPA) Peter Knight has admitted that enforcement of laws to monitor protected areas and other environmental standards has been weak over the years.
Jamaica has 249 protected areas that are managed by the Fisheries Division, the Forestry Department, the Jamaica National Heritage Trust, the Natural Resources Conservation Authority (NRCA), the National Environment and Planning Agency or through legal co-management agreements by other government entities or non-governmental organisations.
The principal national laws that primarily govern protected areas include the Wildlife Protection Act (1945) and its regulations, which protect designated species of animals; the NRCA Act (1991) and associated regulations for marine parks and national parks; and the Forestry Act (1996), which makes provisions for the declaration of forest reserves.
However, protected areas in Jamaica continue to be affected by various human-induced pressures, including squatting, deforestation, and pollution from agricultural run-off, mining activities, and improper waste disposal.
Speaking at a Gleaner Editors' Forum on Wednesday, Knight said that it has been a challenge over the years, especially in light of the evolution of climate change.
"It has been a difficult job," he declared.
"The resources, staff, among other things, are not at our disposal, and so we are constantly trying to ramp up our measures to improve in that regard. We also have illegal activities where people just go and stick up a bar on the beach or operate beaches without permits, and it is extremely difficult to monitor these things," Knight told journalists at the newspaper's offices in downtown Kingston.
He noted, however, that work had been ongoing to ensure that the situation improves, adding that they had received financial assistance to deal with the problem.
"For example, Negril has had several issues there and we were lagging behind in terms of monitoring, and we approached the Tourism Enhancement Fund (TEF), who gave us $US8 million because we all recognised that this is a sensitive area.
"We were able to employ three additional staff - one with marine skills, one with planning, and one who focuses on the environment. That initiative has made tremendous difference, and the TEF has also given us an additional $US20 million. The work continues, however, not only in Negril, but Montego Bay and all over," he said.