Jamaica moves to address marine pollution
Jamaica recently took a crucial step toward the prevention, reduction and control of marine pollution.
In November last year, it ratified the Protocol Concerning Pollution from Land-based Sources and Activities (LBS Protocol), which forms part of the only legally binding regional agreement for the protection and development of the Caribbean Sea the Cartagena Convention.
"This marks a critical step at the country level in demonstrating Government's continued commitment to enact legislation in order to reduce the negative impacts of pollution on the coastal and marine environment, in particular from solid waste and sewage, in accordance with the Protocol," said Chris Corbin, programme officer for Assessment and Management of Environmental Pollution (AMEP)/Communication, Education, Training, and Awareness (CETA) at the United Nations Environment Programme Caribbean Regional Coordinating Unit (UNEP/CEP).
"This move is a significant one for the country as Jamaica hosts the United Nations Environment Programme, Caribbean Regional Coordinating Unit since 1986. The country has also been making strides in wastewater management under the GEF CReW Project with the application of the water utility surcharge through the Office of Utilities Regulation and the National Water Commission, thus enabling a source of funding in that regard. This shows a willingness and readiness to adhere to reduce and control pollution," he added.
The ratification comes at a time when more than 80 per cent of the pollution of the Caribbean Sea comes from activities on land, including deforestation, farm waste, and industrial and toxic waste.
At the same time, coral reef species crucial for the health of fish populations and worth US$375 million in goods and services annually to coastal economies have diminished in the Caribbean by 90 per cent. This is due also, at least in part, to pollution.
The LBS Protocol is one of three protocols under the UNEP-administered Cartagena Convention for the Protection and Development of the Marine Environment of the Wider Caribbean Region.
It is also the only regional legal agreement for the Wider Caribbean that promotes an integrated approach to the prevention, control and reduction of marine pollution.
"[The Protocol] works to reduce pollution by implementing improved standards for wastewater discharges and industrial effluent, and through the promotion and use of best management practices and improved technologies," Corbin noted.
Among the general obligations of the Protocol is the development and implementation of appropriate policies, laws and regulations to prevent, reduce and control pollution, including the use of most appropriate technology and management approaches, such as integrated coastal area management.
Jamaica brings to 12 the number of Caribbean islands that have now ratified the protocol.
"We are hopeful that other countries will recognise the benefits and decide to ratify or accede to the Protocol given that many countries have begun to take positive actions to control and reduce pollution from land-based sources and activities. This would also help countries to fulfil current and future objectives," Corbin said.
Meanwhile, on next steps for Jamaica, the protocol recommends a number of actions, including:
l the classification of recreational water bodies at the national level to ensure that the most important areas are protected from the negative impacts of pollution;
l the establishment of legally binding standards for sewage effluent and discharges;
l the development of a National Programme of Action for Integrated Watershed and Coastal Area Management and/or prevention of pollution from land-based sources; and
l that capacity building training in wastewater treatment be coordinated to improve environmental monitoring and assessment.
For himself, Corbin suggested that Jamaica "improve public awareness efforts to educate the population on pollution".
"Additionally, there should be increased private sector involvement and more effective policies, legislation and regulations that are enforced.
The Government should ensure that the environmental issues are appropriately integrated in decision-making processes. These actions will be critical to the control, reduction and prevention of pollution in the future," he noted.