... Area crucial to Ja's water security - Report
A Technical report prepared by the University of the West Indies (UWI) Centre for Environmental Management, in September 2013, noted that residents are in agreement that the Jamaica National Heritage Trust should seek a nomination of World Heritage Site for the Cockpit Country.
The report, which was based on extensive public consultations that the UWI conducted with stakeholders across the Cockpit region, government entities and non-governmental organisations, noted that there was "vehement opposition to bauxite mining and limestone quarrying within the Cockpit Country.
"There is an urgent need to develop a long-term vision for the Cockpit Country and evaluate the true cost of ecosystem services provided by the Cockpit Country for Jamaica and the world vis-‡-vis the permanent removal of mineral resources under current technological conditions. One of the biggest contributions of the Cockpit Country to the national economy is the provision of potable water. The Water Resource Authority insisted that 40 per cent of water production in Jamaica is supplied by the Cockpit Country aquifer," it noted.
The report said the tourism sector in western Jamaica greatly benefits from the ecological services provided by the Cockpit Country aquifer in terms of water supply and water quality, and that the Cockpit Country Forest plays a critical role in sustaining water security in Jamaica. It said there is strong agreement that the forest reserve should remain pristine due also to its level of endemism and biodiversity, and that additional research be conducted to explore its "archaeological and historical treasures.
"The Government of Jamaica should not authorise any form of mining and quarrying activity within the Cockpit Country as the level of emotion is too high and the level of opposition and resistance by community members and leaders, community-based organisations, non-governmental and civil society organisations, some governmental agencies and members of the academic community, may not provide enough guarantee and confidence for potential investors," the report said.
Among the recommendations for the way forward was the addressing of land tenure, including incentives to private landowners "depending on the future of the Cockpit Country".
"Discussions should take place with the Accompong Maroon Council in order to resolve issues related to ownership rights, conservation and management of the natural resources. There are conflicts between the stakeholders about the use of the Cockpit Country's natural resources. Some stakeholders would like controlled use of the natural resources and amenities by establishing new practices such as sustainable farming, improved land use patterns, ecotourism activities, etc," the UWI report said.
"Other stakeholders would like the natural resources to remain undisturbed. There are conflicting views in terms of exploration of existing natural resources, whether for economic opportunities, simple curiosity or scientific research. The high level of scepticism is associated with the issue of lack of trust between the stakeholders and the motives for the enquiry. Some stakeholders are of the view that exploration will always lead to exploitation, and exploitation to devastation of the existing natural resources and endemic species of fauna and flora," it further noted.