Wed | Oct 4, 2023

Samuda calls for ‘doctrine of development’

... To encourage preservation of green spaces

Published:Monday | June 5, 2023 | 12:05 AMAsha Wilks/Gleaner Writer
Matthew Samuda, minister without portfolio in the Ministry of Economic Growth and Job Creation, speaks about the Government’s plan for green spaces in the Corporate Area during a recent Nature Preservation Foundation Public Forum.
Matthew Samuda, minister without portfolio in the Ministry of Economic Growth and Job Creation, speaks about the Government’s plan for green spaces in the Corporate Area during a recent Nature Preservation Foundation Public Forum.

“Our doctrine for development must change as a nation.”

This statement was made by Matthew Samuda, minister without portfolio in the Ministry of Economic Growth and Job Creation with responsibility for water, environment and climate change, who delivered the keynote address at a recent Nature Preservation Foundation (NPF) Public Forum.

With the growing number of residential and commercial developments taking place throughout the city, Samuda highlighted how crucial green spaces like the Hope Royal Botanical Gardens, more commonly known as Hope Gardens, are to the environment.

He argued that the idea should be to protect the green spaces which we already have, rather than tear them down during the process of urbanisation, and try to restore them after the fact.

“We have to look at these sorts of assets and invest in them accordingly,” he said, adding that the next 150 years of Hope Gardens is dependent on a “very important discussion” regarding the most appropriate and effective financing plan to guarantee its maintenance.

The forum was held at the Pavillion Gardens of the Hope Royal Botanical Gardens in its 150th anniversary commemoration in St Andrew under the theme ‘Vision 2030: Urban Green Spaces ... Pathways To A Natural Environment’.

The minister acknowledged that the government would need to investigate several “blended” financing options, and promised to make his office accessible to the NPF for discussions on developing the most effective structures that would enable Jamaica to raise international funds, receive appropriate government funding, and collaborate with the private sector.

Samuda added that he and Agricultural Minister Floyd Green have been in discussions about establishing a joint intergovernmental committee to create a finance model and to ensure that there is a long-term plan for the preservation and restoration of places that are important to Hope Gardens.

Supporting the views of the minister was panellist Eleanor Jones, chairman and chief executive officer of Environmental Solutions Limited.

“I like what the minister had to say ... because we use the term development synonymously with buildings and with structures and that’s not really development in my opinion. We speak about sustainable development, now when we’re looking at how we deal with our people, how we deal with economics and how we deal with the environment,” she said.

According to Jones, the reality is that urbanisation will never stop because a growing number of individuals are choosing to live in the city.

“What is unfortunate is that in many places ... you move into a site and the first thing you (builders) do is mow down anything that will get in the way of a tractor. That wasn’t always the case,” she said.

She added that when her company went into business, they would visit a site, look at the different trees, and mark any with a particular girth as a warning to the contractor not to cut the tree down. She said that the contractor was required to pay a fine if this was disregarded. Jones said that other trees would be replanted elsewhere.

“What has happened to that?” she questioned, adding that despite having tree-preservation orders, “like everything else, if it is not maintained, if it’s not regularised, if it’s not enforced then we have a problem.”

According to her, the goal should be to increase the number of green space available to the public in order to offset the adverse effects of climate change and to use urban ecosystem-based practices to address crucial human needs.

In his commendations made to the NPF for its ongoing efforts to protect the Hope Gardens for the enjoyment of future generations, Samuda stated that the NPF would have the support of the government to ensure that the space’s preservation is entrenched in law.

Given the current climate-change crisis affecting not only Jamaica, but the world, Samuda said this made the benefit of green spaces all the more important.

“The need and support that it provides for human health, for mental health, for environmental health is obviously well known. The government recognises this and is taking the necessary steps to preserve the importance of green spaces,” he said.

... Progress being made to safeguard green spaces

Jamaica has already preserved 25 per cent of its land mass and will complete the protection of 30 per cent by 2025, according to Mathew Samuda, minister without portfolio in the Ministry of Economic Growth and Job Creation,

Samuda, who has responsibility for water, environment and climate change, noted that Jamaica has been a member of the High Ambition Coalition (HAC) for the past decade.

The HAC advocates for the protection of 40 per cent of land by 2030.

The minister, who was delivering the keynote address at the Nature Preservation Foundation (NPF) Public Forum last Wednesday, said the Government was close to completing a protection framework for 15 ecologically sensitive areas.

“Government hasn’t always worked in a cohesive manner to implement and to monitor land-use declarations that it makes. These areas have been identified as areas that must have a management committee that constantly monitors the activities in and around these areas to ensure that they are indeed protected,” he said.

Samuda further revealed that the national plan and strategy being implemented for the restoration of mangroves was not progressing quickly enough resulting in the need for significant work to be done to rectify this.

In addition, Samuda stated that as Jamaica is a participant in the Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and forest Degradation (REDD+) programme, a climate change mitigation solution developed by parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), this formed the basis of the nation’s analysis of its land use and forest cover.

The project is which is being executed in collaboration with the Forestry Department at a cost of approximately US$613,000 aims to assist Jamaica with capacit- building and putting in place the mechanisms to guide the country in becoming REDD+ ready, he said.

He continued that the first phase of the project was completed in August and that phase two has already commenced.

Samuda disclosed that within phase one it was revealled that Jamaica’s forestry cover was in incline as opposed to being in the decline. The nation’s areas of decline and where citizens should put more focus on, Samuda said, is in the Dry Harbour Forest and in our mangrove cover.

“Those are the areas where we have not performed well [in] as a state. We’ve had very marginal reduction in our primary forest cover, but the expectation is that with the rate of secondary forest growth and the calculations that was done, within the next eight years we should actually have increases in your primary forest cover,” he said.

Jamaica has approximately 40 per cent forest cover.