Tue | Dec 12, 2017

SOS to PM: Save Cockpit Country

Published:Thursday | August 24, 2017 | 12:00 AM
A coalition of civil groups and concerned individuals is using the new petition portal at Jamaica House to get the requisite 15,000 signatures in 30 days to force the Government of Jamaica to review and respond to their Save Cockpit Country appeal.

It's an urgent message to Prime Minister Andrew Holness from the Cockpit Country Stakeholders' Group (CCSG): "Close Cockpit Country to mining, quarrying and prospecting in accordance with the community consultations already held and the recommendations of the University of the West Indies boundary study completed in 2013, and declare the region a national park.

"Cockpit Country is under immediate threat from bauxite mining, which would remove forest cover, block and pollute waterways, displace residents, threaten agricultural livelihoods, compromise air quality and threaten the health and well-being of thousands of Jamaican citizens."

A coalition of civil groups and concerned individuals is using the new petition portal at Jamaica House to get the requisite 15,000 signatures in 30 days to force the Government of Jamaica to review and respond to their Save Cockpit Country appeal. Today is day four of the countdown for the petition, which can be found at http://opm.gov.jm/participate/jamaica-house-petition/.

In a press release issued on Tuesday, the petition also calls on Holness to act quickly in establishing the boundary of Cockpit Country to include hydrology, geomorphology, biological diversity, culture and history, a matter on which the State has failed to act for more than a decade.

Now, CCSG is concerned that when Parliament resumes in September, the Cabinet is likely to take a decision to allow mining and quarrying in Jamaica's largest remaining natural forest, in order for bauxite interests to meet their quota.

CONCERN FOR EVERY JAMAICAN

"Every Jamaican should be concerned about the fate of a forest that holds a great deal of biodiversity, history. It protects the water sources for probably half of western Jamaica and it is valuable for the farmers, for all of the residents of that area, compared to what will happen if it were opened up to mining and quarrying. The cutting of roads will destroy the whole ecosystem which is really unique. I mean, it has a lot of amazing plants and animals. It is the home to 95 per cent of the population of our endangered black-billed parrots and most of our yellow-billed parrots too," Wendy Lee told The Gleaner. She operates the Seven Oaks Sanctuary for Wildlife in Runaway Bay, St Ann.

For Diana McCaulay, chief executive officer of Jamaica Environment Trust, the government's silence on the matter is a cause for worry.

"The public does not know whether this amount of bauxite can be supplied without going into Cockpit Country and at the end of the day, they still haven't made a decision about the boundary, and so the issue is still not settled. Cockpit Country is still not protected and there is so much at stake - the water supply, the biodiversity, the people, the agricultural land, the livelihoods, the alternative livelihoods like ecotourism and so forth," said McCaulay.