THE EDITOR, Sir:
Gleaner columnist Ronald Mason, writing in The Sunday Gleaner of August 18, 2013, confirms many months of speculation - that the Government of Jamaica is indeed considering locating a trans-shipment port in the Portland Bight Protected Area, in the vicinity of the Goat Islands.
Mr Mason frames the debate in the usual unenlightened way - economic development versus the environment - implying that if we want one, we cannot have the other. He calls for dialogue with, and assistance from, environmentalists "without the holding of hard ends".
The Jamaica Environment Trust (JET) first heard of the plan to put the trans-shipment port on the Goat Islands several months ago and tried to have this confirmed from GOJ sources. We were unable to get any official confirmation.
At a meeting of the Partnership for Jamaica about three months ago, when I again asked if this was true, Minister Horace Dalley asked me to give advice with regard to an alternative site. I agreed, contacted colleagues at the University of the West Indies who also agreed to help, but there was no further attempt from the GOJ to engage with me or JET.
So, Mr Mason, you will not find anyone who advocates for sustainable development (which is official government policy, by the way) who is opposed to dialogue. Our experience is quite the opposite - there is considerable reluctance on the part of the GOJ to consult with the environmental community when development plans are at a formative stage.
Mr Mason outlines the legal protections in force for this area of Jamaica, so I will not go through them again - but it would be hard to find a place in Jamaica more thoroughly protected under at least three different laws and two international conventions.
What does it mean if those protections are ignored by the GOJ when an investor wants that particular piece of land? What signal does this send to international conservation partners who have funded numerous projects over decades to protect Jamaica's natural heritage? Who is setting Jamaica's development agenda?
The obvious answer is to identify an alternative site for the trans-shipment port, and we assume that a thorough search has already been conducted.
JET, therefore, calls on the GOJ to reveal the full details of this project and the possibilities for alternative sites immediately.
CEO, Jamaica Environment Trust