Christopher Serju, Sunday Gleaner Writer
The EuropeaN Union (EU) Delegation to Jamaica has expressed delight with the progress of two environmental projects it is funding in different sections of the Portland Bight Protected Area in the parish of Clarendon.
Last Thursday, members of the group, including head of delegation Paola Amadei, British High Commissioner David Fitton, German Ambassador Josef Beck, French Ambassador Jinette de Matha and Godelieve Van den Bergh, the Belgian Ambassador to Jamaica, visited Portland Cottage and Salt River where a mangrove restoration and a fisheries management project are being implemented.
The projects are being imple-mented in conjunction with the National Environmental Protection Agency (NEPA) and the Caribbean Coastal Area Management (C-CAM) Foundation.
"I was very impressed on the mangrove part of the tour because I was there one year ago where the land was barren and there was no water, therefore all the mangroves which were damaged by the hurricane, they became rotten because they didn't have any more access to the water," Amadei said.
She added: "It made big impression to see it after one year which shows the importance of the intervention."
Eight persons, including three children, drowned in Portland Cottage when Hurricane Ivan devastated the community in 2004.
A significant portion of the mangrove forest was also destroyed by the natural disaster, but the damage was further worsened by the dumping of debris to facilitate construction of a temporary roadway soon afterwards.
This made it easier for goats to access and feed on the mangroves, eventually resulting in its devastation in some areas.
A COLLABORATIVE EFFORT
The restoration efforts brought together local fishermen with members of C-CAM and NEPA to also construct a servicing barge which has been pivotal in carrying out the cleaning and repairs to the buoys, as well as maintenance.
Amadei said that although benefits of the project would not be easily discerned in the short term, its impact would still be far-reaching.
"It is not possible to yet evaluate the impact. However, I think it gives a sense of the importance of the Portland Bight Area for the ecosystem of Jamaica - the fact that not less than three fish sanctuaries have been established here.
Minister of Transport, Works and Housing Omar Davies recently received a report on the Portland Bight area, which includes the Goat Islands.
GOAT ISLANDS PLANS
The Government is considering a proposal from China Harbour Engineering Company for the establishment of a port and logistic facilities at Goat Islands. However, in the wake of opposition from the environmental lobby, the Port Authority of Jamaica commissioned an environmental management scoping project to identify precisely the levels of interest in Portland Bight and the principal biophysical and sociocultural characteristics.
Davies said some of the objectives of this study include determining the geographic boundaries of the Portland Bight Protected Area, identifying the biologically sensitive features of the marine and terrestrial environment, determining the location of rare, threatened and endangered species and their spatial distribution in the Portland Bight and Ridge Area and the Goat Islands; and identifying the boundaries of fish sanctuaries.