Fri | Jun 5, 2020

Messy, messy Pedro Cays - NEPA fails to enforce clean-up notice served on State agencies more than one year ago

Published:Friday | June 3, 2016 | 12:00 AMChristopher Serju
Some of the debris which litters the Pedro Cays.

More than one year after the National Environment and Planning Agency (NEPA) ordered an immediate clean-up of the Pedro Cays, in particular the Middle Cay, not much has been done and the area remains in a deplorable condition.

The last check by the Jamaica Environment Trust (JET) in January found that the situation continues to deteriorate, with no enforcement strategies being employed by any of the government agencies involved in the administration of the Cays.

And NEPA has admitted that when it last checked the desperately needed remedial work had not been done.

Last Thursday, chief executive officer of NEPA, Peter Knight, told The Sunday Gleaner that he would need to update himself on the situation before commenting but admitted that the last quarterly visit done by a team from his office found that there were still major problems with solid waste.

"The situation was both solid and human waste, but that's three months ago. I don't know what the development is now," said Knight.


No noticeable improvement


The NEPA team which last visited the Cays found that there had been no serious attempt at cleaning up the situation.

The report from the team was supported by pictures showing the increased accumulation of solid waste, as well as the crude attempts at sanitary convenience solutions.

"There has been no noticeable improvement in waste management practices observed on the Cays on the visit of November 10, 2015, when compared to the previous visits. Solid waste was seen littering various sections of the Cays. This included both solid organic and inorganic waste.

"Small burnt piles were found across the Cays, especially in the vicinity of shacks. The main garbage holding area continued to be unregulated. There was no observable improvement with the conditions of the latrines. Human excreta were seen on the beach along the southwestern section of the Cays," reads the report.

Following a visit to the Cays last year, NEPA served an enforcement notice on the National Land Agency and the agriculture ministry, threatening to prosecute Commissioner of Lands Elizabeth Stair and Permanent Secretary Donovan Stanberry if they failed to take action to address the situation, which posed a serious threat to public health.

The March 25, 2015 notice had directed Steer and Stanberry to arrange for a clean-up of the Cays or present a practical work plan to do so by April 24.

They were warned that failure to comply would see them facing the courts. NEPA had also indicated that if conditions were not addressed by that time, all fishing activities would be shut down on the offshore facility.


Proper sanitary facilities


In the meantime, Andre Kong, director of fisheries in the Ministry of Industry, Commerce, Agriculture and Fisheries, says plans have been approved for the erection of proper sanitary and other facilities on the Cays but getting all the material there is proving to be a major stumbling block.

"Last estimate is that it is about 200,000 pounds of things - steel, sand, water, gravel, cement, plus all of the equipment that is to go over there, and to move it from mainland Jamaica to the Cays is a logistical nightmare," he bemoaned.

"All the arrangements have been made and it's just a matter of implementation now. The boat comes to a certain distance, it can't go no further. It stops and then you take it off and is only canoes out there. So is the fisherman them going to have to help us to take off the sand and the steel and the water and this and that ... it is going to be one hell of a something. So I am trying to see how best we can do this ... it's not so easy."


The reality


But Diana McCaulay, chief executive officer of JET, is convinced that the problems on the Pedro Bank are a direct result of a lack of political will to clean up the Cays in the first place, and then maintain the vigilance in terms of monitoring and enforcement to ensure that the carrying capacity of the Cays is not exceeded.

"Basically, the fisheries division has to face the fact that there are too many people out there and reduce the numbers significantly. There is a period of time when people have to come off and the place has to be restored, because if there is much less people out there the sanitation problem is much less and the amount of (waste) material is much less, but he does not want to police the place in proper way," said McCaulay.

"Mr Kong and the fisheries division have presided and continue to preside over the collapse of Jamaican fisheries, with the exception of conch, which to this point hasn't collapsed, but if the same lack of management is applied to that as has been done to fishery, soon we will not have any.

"There can be no excuse for a regulatory body to allow the situation that has persisted on the Pedro Bank for probably 15 years. What is the point of these regulatory bodies? They serve no purpose," added McCaulay.