Thu | Nov 26, 2020

Letter of the Day | Unanswered questions on Dry Harbour quarrying

Published:Sunday | November 22, 2020 | 7:59 AM

THE EDITOR, Madam:

I researched more about limestone supply in Trelawny and St Ann, and found out that:

• All limestone between Discovery Bay and Falmouth is essentially the same.

• There is excess capacity among existing quarries to comfortably meet local demand for limestone, including to satisfy large-scale future developments.

• Active quarries are sited in locations which have no adverse effect on neighbours.

• Less than a dozen shipments of limestone leave Reynold’s Pier in Ocho Rios each year; annual economic value derived is dwarfed by two cruise ship calls.

• Cross-contamination issues reduce the likelihood of bauxite and limestone being shipped from ports where loading infrastructure is shared.

I question how lucrative the mining of the Dry Harbour Mountain would be in practice, unless directors of Bengal Development Limited have secured an unusually large and as yet undeclared limestone contract abroad. The 100 jobs slated for Rio Bueno through this foreign investment would be offset in equal number by the sacrifice of established, long-term tourist-related jobs in the area.

If new demand for limestone were to appear, why not allow existing local quarries to create more jobs and leverage their excess capacity? The economic gain would be matched – then vastly overtaken – in terms of the net public gain from not upsetting communities and the environment.

Quarrying might, however, be an efficient back-door means of bypassing national planning constraints for future commercial-residential development. Who would object to development once land is barren, ecosystems erased and groundwater disrupted for millennia?

To build on the Dry Harbour Mountain would not be permitted otherwise. It would constitute sporadic development, with no infrastructure to support it. Under Jamaican planning law, this area is designated, and should never be considered for development – like national parks in the United States, or the Green Belt around London.

In order to conserve resources, good sustainable planning practice seeks to consolidate and build out existing designated residential areas, where the commerce, jobs and infrastructure to support them are already established. There are many such places: Coral Springs, Stonebrook and Hague Housing Developments around Falmouth, Duncan’s Bay, Duncan’s Heights, Harmony Cove, Belle Air, Vista Heights and Cardiff Hall in Runaway Bay – nowhere near their full capacity.

The facts and narrative do not equate, and our country is calling on decision-makers for greater transparency.

FIONA LEE EVANS

Rio Bueno