Negril stakeholders open to meeting on breakwaters plan
Petre Williams-Raynor, Contributing Editor
NEGRIL'S tourism interests have expressed a willingness to discuss with Government stakeholders, including the Planning Institute of Jamaica (PIOJ), the proposal to have breakwaters installed to help arrest beach erosion in the resort town.
"We are anxious for a discussion," said Lee Issa of Couples Resorts, in an emailed response to Sunday Gleaner queries.
"We have had varied discussions with no conclusions and the stakeholders do not feel they were included in a meaningful way in the decision process," added Issa.
He was responding to the publicised intention of the PIOJ — the national implementing entity for the Adaptation Fund-financed programme under which the breakwaters are to be installed — to meet with stakeholders on the issue.
The PIOJ's move followed the recent journey of Issa and others to Kingston to record their opposition to the breakwaters, which they fear will lead to a loss of snorkelling ground, damage the marine ecosystem and prove an eyesore.
And this for a town which is heavily dependent on tourism, that brings millions to the government coffers annually.
Under the programme 'Enhancing the Resilience of the Agriculture Sector and Coastal Areas to Protect Livelihoods and Improve Food Security', the plan is to put in two submerged breakwaters, measuring 990 metres in total — 1.5 kilometres from the shoreline at Long Bay Beach.
News of the hoteliers' opposition prompted concern from the PIOJ over the future of the programme — the first of its kind to be financed by the Adaptation Fund in the Caribbean.
"The fact that we went to them [the Adaptation Fund] and submitted a programme proposal which purports to have benefited from community consultation, and now to see the same community that we purported to have consulted with proposing such vehement rejection of the project really puts us in a bad light," PIOJ Deputy Director General Claire Bernard told The Sunday Gleaner.
"It is suggesting that the consultations we said we did, we did not do — and we did do the consultations."
Meanwhile, Issa is not alone in his willingness to hold further discussions.
"We are not at all (averse to meeting)," said Sophie Grizzle Roumel of Charela Inn.
However, she said it would have to be meaningful.
According to Grizzle-Roumel, earlier meetings with the National Environment and Planning Agency (NEPA) on this and other matters had not been meaningful.
"We are tired of them just coming and presenting things to us and not actually sitting around the table and saying: 'What are your issues? What do you think we need to do to solve the issues?' That has been one of the problems that we have with NEPA," said Grizzle-Roumel.
"For 35 years, we have worked to build our little business here and I really find it hard to take somebody's word from Kingston — and without enough information — and say let us try it."
Issa is of a similar view.
"Meetings have occurred and those objections have been stated. The problem is the Government has not been listening and that is why we have involved the press," he said.
"We would like meaningful meetings, not meetings called at short notice and (which are) badly organised."
He proposed that Tourism Minister Dr Wykeham McNeill convene a meeting "to discuss these matters with NEPA and the PIOJ present".
He was also insistent that a better solution could be found to the erosion in Negril.
"We recognise that there are different solutions being proposed by professionals, and we understand that the Government of Jamaica has to make a decision, but we do not believe that breakwaters are the solution," said Issa.