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Jamaica's Adaptation Fund Project can be altered, but ...

Published:Friday | July 11, 2014 | 7:00 AM

AS A storm brews over the installation of breakwaters to arrest beach erosion in Negril, it has emerged that Jamaica's Adaptation Fund project can be altered - but not without board approval from the Fund.

The breakwaters - to measure 990 metres in total and to be located 1.5 kilometres from the shoreline - are being erected under the project run by the Planning Institute of Jamaica (PIOJ) as the designated national implementing entity (NIE).

"There is flexibility for the implementing entity to make minor adjustments to the project design and to the budget. If the changes are 'material', meaning 10 per cent or more of the project's total budget, the implementing entity shall communicate them to the Adaptation Fund Board for approval. The Board makes a decision on whether or not to approve the changes," explained Mikko Ollikainen, senior climate change specialist with the Adaptation Fund Secretariat.

Still, there is no guarantee that the proposed change - such as the installation of breakwaters in Negril and the beach nourishment being lobbied for by local hoteliers - would receive the requisite stamp of approval.

Ollikainen, who spoke to The Gleaner during his stay in Montego Bay for the Climate Investment Forum, would not speculate on the probability of beach nourishment being approved.

"It is not possible to comment on such hypothetical situation," he said.

Negril hotel interests and a number of local residents are insistent on beach nourishment as the better option for them. At a stakeholders' meeting, convened by Panos Caribbean under its Adaptation Fund NGO Network project in the community recently, they gave several reasons for their opposition to the breakwaters. Not the least of these was a concern over aesthetics.

Growing concerns

In addition, there was worry over:

The possibility of the breakwaters failing and the need for a contingency plan for that, as well as for its maintenance;

Traffic disruption at the centre of town to accommodate the work; and

The community's involvement in a monitoring and evaluation programme for the work.

There was, too, disquiet about the lack of what they described as meaningful public consultation on the work, which a July 29 public meeting on the environmental impact assessment on the breakwaters may help to address.

Hoteliers, led by Lee Issa of Couples Resorts, are, in the interim, pressing ahead with looking at how beach nourishment can work. They have had a team from the Dutch contracting firm Van Oord, which specialises in dredging and land reclamation, visit the island to talk about how the option could likely work for Negril. Issa has also commissioned sand probing tests to support such an effort.

Meanwhile, Ollikainen said it was up to the NIE to resolve any issues relating to the project.

"PIOJ is fully responsible for the project, and we are not in a position to recommend ways forward. We trust PIOJ's ability to make its own informed decisions, and, of course, hope that issues can be resolved amicably," he told The Gleaner.

On whether there is room for intervention from the Adaptation Fund in the event of an impasse, the senior climate change specialist said: "The Adaptation Fund Board (AFB) does not directly supervise projects; that is solely the role of the PIOJ."

"In case there are complaints about the management of the project, stakeholders can file complaints with the PIOJ or, if the complaint would be about the implementing entity, directly with the AFB secretariat. The focal points for filing complaints are on the Adaptation Fund website: https://www.adaptation-fund.org/page/mechanisms-handling-complaints," he added.

At just over US$5.4 million, the breakwaters form the most expensive component of the project called 'Enhancing the Resilience of the Agricultural Sector and Coastal Areas to Protect Livelihoods and Improve Food Security'.

The second component looks at boosting climate resilience in the agriculture sector and is valued just over US$2.5 million. The third addresses institutional and local-level capacity for coastal agriculture and awareness raising and is valued at US$785,500. Other costs include programme execution, valued at US$415,000, while a US$30,000 grant was provided for project formation.

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