Tue | May 21, 2019

Letter of the Day | JET’s concerns about the New Negril master plan

Published:Saturday | March 23, 2019 | 12:08 AM

THE EDITOR, Sir:

I write in response to a series of articles in The Gleaner’s Hospitality Jamaica section on Wednesday, March 12, 2019 regarding the development of the ‘New Negril’ master plan by the National Environment and Planning Agency (NEPA).

The Jamaica Environment Trust (JET) would like to add our voice to the concerns being voiced by the ‘Negrilliers’. These are summarised as follows:

1. JET is extremely concerned by the report that the Government of Jamaica (GOJ) wishes to eliminate height and density restrictions in the area governed by the master plan.

The area, as described, stretches along the coastline (and some distance inland) from the boundary between the parishes of Hanover and Westmoreland, to Esher, near Lucea. This stretch of coastline includes some of the most scenic and pristine landscapes in Jamaica, which are supported by valuable coastal ecosystems – wetlands and coral reefs.

No restrictions

A master plan that places no restrictions on building height or density could have a devastating impact on this fragile environment. Rigorous carrying-capacity studies must be used to guide the plan, to inform height and density restrictions, which should in turn be applied and enforced accordingly. The plan should also include a well-thought-out and enforceable zoning plan, which incorporates no-build conservation zones, to protect the most fragile environments in the area.

2. A ‘New’ Negril master plan should not mean that problems of ‘Old’ Negril are left unaddressed by the GOJ. JET is also concerned that a Masterplan for ‘new’ Negril, which is implemented poorly, will only stretch the problems associated with ‘old’ Negril further along the coast.

The town of Negril in Westmoreland has suffered from a lack of enforcement of environment and planning regulations for decades.

Development left unchecked in the town has resulted in the destruction of Negril’s natural resources and has derailed the traditional livelihoods of its residents.

The mismanagement of Negril has never been adequately remedied by the GOJ, and the town current exists in a state of degradation and neglect. The management challenges of ‘old’ Negril must be addressed in conjunction with the sustainable development of the adjacent ‘New Negril’.

3. Climate change and its anticipated impacts on not only the area covered by the plan but on the entire island should be central to the plan’s development.

Considerations of sea level rise, coastal inundation, water scarcity, increased intensity of tropical cyclones, and unpredictable rainfall should all be taken into account when determining the activities and types of developments that will be allowed in the area.

An assessment of the vulnerability of the coastline to a range of sea-level rise scenarios should be used to determine setback requirements for any construction near the coast. These setback requirements should be accompanied by strongly enforced restrictions for no-build zones.

4. A detailed monitoring and enforcement plan, which assigns appropriate resources, must be incorporated into the master plan. Implementation of the plan should not be allowed to commence until resources for monitoring and enforcement have been secured.

Although JET is not opposed to the development of the master plan in principle, we are of the position that it must be guided by the principles as outlined in the master plan, for Sustainable Tourism Development in Jamaica (2002), including an audit of natural resources and a drainage study of the area detailed studies of the requirements for transport, housing, sewage and solid-waste management; and rigorous public consultation.

SUZANNE STANLEY

Chief Executive Officer

Jamaica Environment Trust