Wed | Dec 7, 2016

Ja only talks environment - Prof Wade

Published:Thursday | November 13, 2014 | 12:00 AM

Christopher Serju, Gleaner Writer

Consultant environmental scientist Professor Barry Wade has expressed concern that environmental and climate-change issues are not being given the priority attention they deserve.

"I think we're still talking a very good talk about what needs to be done, but I don't think we are very good about doing it. I don't think we are putting the resources, both the financial, but especially the manpower resources, where they need to be. It's good to hear what's going to happen, what are the plans about climate change, but we need to see more active participation in adaptations for climate change, for example," he told The Gleaner recently.

"And, of course, there are the controversial issues which unfortunately we don't think the public is engaged with enough. There is not the information flow that there should be, and we would like to see the Jamaican public much more involved in matters of the environment and not as an afterthought," he shared following the ceremonial signing of the National Indicative Programme - 11th European Union Development Fund at Jamaica House.

Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller used the occasion to announce that environment and climate-change initiatives will come in for renewed focus, flowing from the allocation of the 33 per cent or €15.25 million that will be available under the project from 2014-2020. In fact, she said Jamaica is already a world leader in this area.

"Jamaica stands among the countries in the world which have been most forward-thinking and decisive in our environmental planning and management and in planning for the prevention and mitigation of the negative effects of climate change," she told the signing ceremony. However, Professor Wade is not convinced that Jamaica has its priorities right on matters of the environment.

Strengthen NEPA

He told The Gleaner: "I would say that the National Environment and Planning Agency needs to be strengthened to carry out the functions that really fall within its portfolio, and I think that if they are limited, then the whole implementation of projects will be limited. I don't think they have the institutional capacity to give the full support to environmental matters that they need to ... . A lot of the experienced persons who know about environmental issues in detail are moving on to other areas, and that's one of the things, the pool of experienced personnel, instead of enlarging is getting rather thinner."

Professor Wade, who has conducted more than 50 environmental impact assessments in Jamaica, the Caribbean and Latin America, and whose landmark study of the pollution ecology of the Kingston Harbour was published in 1976, noted that while some progress has been made in respect of cleaning up the marine environment, there is need for a more coordinated and sustained effort.

"When we did our work, sewage going into the harbour was the major problem. That is being addressed, but the solid waste problem has become much, much worse, and we don't see the attention or the effort being paid to cleaning up. If one goes over to Port Royal or anywhere along the northern shores of the harbour, one will see the extent of the problem, and it affects not just the natural ecology of the harbour. It affects the fishermen who are complaining and it affects downstream into Hellshire and what not, so that the solid waste problem has increased immensely since we did our work."

christopher.serju@gleanerjm.com