NRCA to make decision on Negril breakwaters
Petre Williams-Raynor, Contributing Editor
THE PUBLIC could know as early as September whether the Natural Resources Conservation Authority (NRCA), serving as the board for the National Environment and Planning Agency (NEPA), will approve the installation of breakwaters to halt beach erosion in Negril.
"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," revealed Ainsley Henry, director of the Applications Management Division of NEPA.
He spoke to The Gleaner Tuesday, following the July 29 public consultation on the environmental impact assessment done on the now-controversial breakwaters to which Negril stakeholders have remained opposed while lobbying for beach nourishment as their preferred option.
At the more than three-hour-long public consultation, held at the community centre in Negril, stakeholders were, among other things, provided with information on the need for and value of the breakwaters. However, they remain unimpressed.
"They have not convinced anybody that this is the right thing they are doing. 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. And basically, stakeholders in Negril have said 'go and spend the money elsewhere if you want'," said Mary Veira, who has been involved with mobilising hotel and other local interests to attend public discussions on the breakwaters, which forms a part of Jamaica's roughly US$10-million Adaptation Fund Project.
"Further more, we have no confidence that the people designing and doing the work have the competence to do it," she added.
Meanwhile, Henry was quick to add that a decision to grant regulatory approval would not constitute a green light for the work to be done.
"Essentially, it is whether a licence to allow for construction will be granted by the Authority through the agency (NEPA). It is less about if we as Jamaicans want the structure and more about what the science says," he posited.
"So if we look at the science and the science says it will do what it is designed to do and that it will have no deleterious effects on the environment, then what we will do is prepare the technical document and, taking into consideration what the public perception is, the Authority will take a decision," Henry added.
"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 explained further.
The public, including Negril stakeholders, has 30 days from the July 29 meeting to provide written feedback on the breakwaters to NEPA.
Already the Negril stakeholders are preparing to submit their feedback.
"The letter is being written," Veira said, adding that it would thereafter be circulated for signatures before being submitted to NEPA.