Mon | Aug 21, 2017

JET wants answers from PM over Duncans Bay approval

Published:Wednesday | July 12, 2017 | 7:00 AMMark Titus
Diana McCaulay

Western Bureau:

The Jamaica Environment Trust (JET), the leading local environment watchdog organisation, is raising concerns as to whether or not the National Environment and Planning Agency (NEPA) was on board in granting a controversial sand mining permit to Duncans Bay Development Company (DBDC) or merely crumbled under pressure because of the players involved.

Responding to a Sunday Gleaner article, dated July 9, 2017, which appeared under the headline 'Beach blow - Duncans Bay resident still livid despite OPM's defence of sand mining approval', JET's Chief Executive Officer Diana McCaulay noted that, having rejected the initial request for a permit, there is nothing to suggest that NEPA's subsequent change of heart had anything to do with any efforts to address the initial concerns.

"Despite repeating their earlier concerns, especially concerning nesting sea turtles, NEPA recommended that the permit be granted with 18 conditions, including the provision of a performance bond," said McCaulay. "Another condition required that no mining occur during the peak sea turtle nesting season (June to November), but this would not, of course, prevent destruction of the habitat itself outside of those months."

She added: "The questions which arise are: Did NEPA advise the prime minister (or his delegate) to go ahead and grant the permit, despite their earlier contrary advice to the NRCA Board? If so, why? Did NEPA just collapse under pressure, or did the minister (Prime Minister Andrew Holness), hearing the appeal, ignore the recommendations of his technical body to refuse the sand mining permit for Duncans Bay?"

...'No one met with citizens'

Prime Minister Andrew Holness signed the decision letter advising National Environment and Planning Agency (NEPA) boss Peter Knight to sign a permit granting a company owned by former Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) politician and developer Keith Russell permission to carry out sand mining operations in Duncans Bay, Trelawny.

"After being advised of the arguments by both parties and the recommendations provided by the NEPA, I have decided to allow the appeal from Duncans Bay Development Company Limited, thereby granting the environmental permit in respect of the captioned matter pursuant to Section 35 of the NRCA (National Resources Conser-vation Authority) Act," the PM's letter states.

However, residents of Duncans Bay are adamant that the PM could not have observed due care in making such a decision when no community member was consulted on the matter.

"No one met with the citizens to hear our story, to include us in any way or form for us to show them what is happening on the ground and be shown the overwhelming evidences of the destruction taking place in our community," said Delroy Boswell president of the Duncans Bay Citizens' Association.

JET, which has been monitoring the sand mining activity in the area since January 2014, is also questioning the reference to a Government of Jamaica-funded study by the state entities, which is yet to be made public.

McCaulay is also seeking answers as to whether or not it was the prime minister or an appointee who heard the appeal from the Trelawny-based company.