Tue | Mar 19, 2019

NEPA operating without clear supportive legislation says CaPRI

Published:Monday | December 3, 2018 | 12:12 AMRomario Scott
Daryl Vaz
Thorburn
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The National Environment and Planning Agency (NEPA) has been operating without clear legislation to support it, the Caribbean Policy Research Institute (CaPRI) has concluded. The research institute cited the issue as a major reason for the weak management of environmental matters by the state.

CaPRI revealed its findings at a forum last Wednesday, where its director of research, Dr Diana Thorburn, noted that the environment portfolio has been affected by confusion, incomplete laws and regulations, and a lack of accountability for the past 30 years.

In 2001, the three main regulatory bodies, the Natural Resources and Conservation Authority (NRCA), the Town and Country Planning Authority and the Development and Land Development and Utilisation Commission were merged to create NEPA. However, according to CaPRI, "the Act that established the NRCA was never repealed and the new NEPA Act was never promulgated".

"That means that NEPA is operating under multiple laws that pre-date the organisation with no legislation giving it legal authority to actually enforce any of these regulations," Thorburn argued at the Terra Nova All-Suite Hotel in St Andrew recently, as she assessed the management of the environment portfolio.

"It ends up being that the NRCA directly responds to the minister instructs NEPA and NEPA also responds directly to the minister," she added.

In 2011, a concept paper that outlined a proposal for a new entity to complete the process to establish NEPA, which had started 2001, was put forward. However, CaPRI said the paper fell off the books.

The CaPRI director of research said the legislation supporting the establishment of NEPA need to be promulgated as a matter of urgency.

"It simply needs to be done. The confusing and contradictory regulatory framework cannot continue. It is a key source of the weakness and problems that we face,"

In response, minister with responsibility for the environment in the Ministry of Economic Growth and Job Creation, Daryl Vaz, admitted that there was not much progress being made in addressing the systemic issues plaguing the portfolio over the past 30 years.

He, however, said that work to promulgate the NEPA Act is scheduled to be concluded in the 2019/2020 financial year.

romario.scott@gleanerjm.com