Tue | Oct 27, 2020

Cockpit Country indecision?

Published:Wednesday | April 5, 2017 | 12:00 AM
A section ofthe Cockpit Country Reserve, Trelawny.
Prime Minister Andrew Holness

THE YEARS-LONG wait goes on for a decision on a boundary for the Cockpit Country one of the few remaining forest-cover gems in Jamaica, an area rich in biological diversity and one seen as invaluable to the island's freshwater security.

"I understand that there was a protracted negotiation between the various government entities and a compromise position was reached, and that recently there has been an attempt to make that compromise position much smaller," revealed Diana McCaulay, chief executive officer for the Jamaica Environment Trust (JET).

JET, together with entities such as the Windsor Research Centre and the Southern Trelawny Environmental Agency, have long lobbied for a decision on the Cockpit Country.

Others, including Panos Caribbean, a regional entity working to empower in particular vulnerable people and communities through development communications, have more recently joined the effort.

"Stakeholders from the environment sector the likes of JET and the Windsor Research Centre have also identified the Cockpit Country; planning for sustainable development; protected areas; sanitation and public health; and the enforcement of environmental laws as key issues requiring the PM's (Andrew Holness') attention going forward," the communication NGO said in a March 3, 2016 statement to the press.

"Panos would wish to endorse those additional areas, particularly since their handling will have implications for the island's capacity to treat with climate change," it added.

The statement came in the wake of Holness' victory at the polls.

This week, McCaulay said it is imperative that government comes to a final decision on the boundary and make it public.

"(Cockpit Country is responsible for) 40 per cent of our water supply. It is our last remaining large forested area. It is of paramount importance that it not be lost," she said.

Meanwhile, speaking with Panos Caribbean and Gleaner representatives at the international climate change talks in Marrakech last year, Holness said he would not want to put a timeline on a revelation of the boundary.

"I would not want to put a timeline on it not even an estimate. But the decision is made; it is just the technical issues that are being worked out," Holness said.

Among the boundaries that have been proposed over the years are the Cockpit Country Stakeholders' Group boundary that takes in St Ann, St Elizabeth, St James, and Trelawny, which would reportedly deny access to some 300 million tons of bauxite or US$9 billion.

Additionally, there are:

- the Ring Road boundary that takes in Trelawny and St Elizabeth and which would deny access to 150 million tons or US$4.5-billion;

- the Sweeting/University of the West Indies (UWI) boundary projected to incur losses of US$4.2 billion or 140 million tons of bauxite; and

- the Maroon boundary comprised of Trelawny and St Elizabeth, and which would amount to US$3 billion or 100 million tons of bauxite lost.

There are, too, the Forestry Reserve boundary that would cause a loss of US$450 million, or 15 million tons of bauxite; as well as the Jamaica Bauxite Institute boundary, which would incur losses of US$300 million or 10 million tons of the ore.