Thu | Oct 19, 2017

Letter of the Day: Stop the hypocrisy!

Published:Wednesday | February 10, 2016 | 12:00 AM

THE EDITOR, Sir:

The 2015 development order for the Negril and Green Island area allows the removal of beach sand in only "exceptional circumstances" and then only for "reuse in the [same] area". This order has clearly been breached. Sixty thousand cubic metres of sand were excavated in Negril, Westmoreland, and carted off to a Karisma hotel being built in St Ann. This will worsen beach erosion and business loss for the hoteliers and people of Negril.

But this is what Minister Robert Pickersgill has sanctioned. With climate change on everyone's mind, the decision taken by the minister of the environment is incomprehensible. It is a profoundly mistaken approach.

Pickersgill sets out Government's approach to the Negril sand removal very plainly - and it is much worse than the "administrative error" and "bungling" admitted by John Junor, head of the Natural Resources Conservation Authority (NRCA). Reversing an earlier decision, Pickersgill has allowed the removal of sand with the statement that the economic value of the project "outweighs all other consideration".

The other consideration he was referring to was the environment. He was saying that the environment doesn't count when you have to choose between it and the 'economy'. But what he really meant was that the immediate benefit to the Mexican hotel builder in St Ann was more important than long-term (and short-term) benefits to Negril people and hoteliers.

That is what the 'environment' so often entails - benefits to other investors and to the wider public that stands to gain from those investments. Those investments may be by Big Business (hoteliers) or by small business (fishermen in their boats and nets) or by the State in protecting the environment (e.g., the wetlands, or a fish sanctuary).

Pickersgill and the Government are quick to abandon the principle for the sake of the 'importance' of the Mexican hotel. But what makes that hotel more 'important' than the hotels and people of Negril? What criterion is being used? Does the Mexican promise of more investment outweigh all Negril's investments and people? Is some other benefit coming to the decision makers that we don't know about?

At Appleton in St Elizabeth, another case in point, effluent from the J. Wray and Nephew sugar processing factory is passed into the Black River and damages fish production by Algix and fishermen's haul downstream. It parallels identically the practice by the Frome sugar factory in Westmoreland of putting its effluent into the Cabarita River, which harms the economy of fishermen waste down the river. This has been going on for decades.

The National Environment and Planning Agency (NEPA) has been sluggish in enforcing an end to Appleton sending its waste into the Black River.

If, in fact, the Government's philosophy is the 'economy' over the 'environment', it should stop the pretence and close down NEPA and NRCA and do away with environmental impact assessments. Stop the hypocrisy of saying one thing and doing the opposite!

JAMAICA CIVIL SOCIETY FORUM

(Diana McCaulay, Horace Levy et al)