Christopher Serju, Gleaner Writer
A group of hoteliers yesterday journeyed from Negril, Westmoreland, to the Corporate Area to draw attention to what they say is a misguided government plan to build two breakwaters along the tourist resort's famous seven-mile white sand beach.
A breakwater is essentially a protective structure of stone or concrete extending from shore into the water and which 'breaks' the full impact of waves, and in so doing protects the beach from erosion by slowing or preventing sand from being washed away. But while the group of hoteliers and other stakeholders in the tourism industry acknowledge that there is a need for some remedial action, they insist that the proposed action will do much more harm than good.
They say the construction of two breakers along Long Bay, one in excess of 500 metres and the other more than 400 metres, will cause irreversible damage to the marine ecosystem, resulting in the loss of a popular snorkeling ground and creating a monstrous eyesore. They say the work which will be carried out by the National Works Agency (NWA) under the supervision of NEPA will wreck their livelihoods and significantly devalue the popular tourist destination.
Sophie Grizzle-Roumel of Charela Inn said during a press conference at The Jamaica Pegasus hotel in New Kingston, that while there is an urgent need to arrest the beach erosion, local and international experts have advised against this method.
Creates more problems
"They have all informed us that at no cost should we ever allow anyone to install any hard engineering solutions such as breakwaters because it is well known that they create far more problems and do not achieve their goal," she said.
The press conference is a follow-up to a full-page newspaper ad published yesterday in which the group used three photographs to show the comparison between the unspoilt Negril of the past, with damage being done at present as a result of building-code breaches, as well as an impression of the eyesore that will be created if the plans goes ahead.
Meanwhile, Lee Issa of Couples Resorts, which operates two hotels in Negril and two in Ocho Rios, admitted that while developers had done extensive damage to the natural environment during the early days, this was usually out of ignorance and these mistakes should not be compounded given the greater understanding today of the correlation between the natural and built environments.
He said the plan to harvest huge boulders from the banks of the South Negril River and truck them to the proposed site will have serious environmental impact at both locations.
"I think it is a short-term fix that may not be a fix and then we will be stuck with these structures. I want to bring public attention to what is happening in Negril and to ask the authorities to not push these breakwaters. We do want to see a better Negril but we want to see it done right," Issa appealed.
When The Gleaner contacted the environment ministry, an assistant to Robert Pickersgill advised that enquires on the matter would be passed to the communications department. Upon checking for an update, the newspaper was advised that no response had been forthcoming.
In addition, Peter Knight, chief executive officer of NEPA, was said to be in a meeting all day.