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Wait goes on for Cockpit Country boundary decision

Published:Wednesday | November 9, 2016 | 12:00 AM
A section of the Cockpit Country Reserve in Trelawny.

SOME EIGHT years on and at least two changes in the political administration, the Jamaican public continues the wait for a decision on the island's ecological gem, the Cockpit Country.

The latest promise of a decision came in June this year from Minister Daryl Vaz, who has responsibility for land, environment and climate change in the Ministry of Economic Growth and Job Creation.

"We are aware that several attempts have been made by the previous administration to define the boundaries, but we are going to complete the process and lay the issue to rest once and for all," Vaz said in his sectoral presentation to Parliament.

"In this regard, a joint Cabinet Submission with the Ministry of Transport and Mining will be submitted to Cabinet shortly and members will be kept abreast of the developments," he added at the time.

Since then there has been no news on the progress until yesterday.

"The Cockpit Country matter is still very much alive and I know the Government is very much committed to resolving the matter," Colonel Oral Khan, chief technical director in Vaz' ministry, told The Gleaner.

"The principal ministries involved in these negotiations are the ministry with responsibility for the environment and the ministry with responsibility for transport and mining. The technocrats have updated the administration and provided their advice and so we are awaiting their consideration," he added.

Among the boundaries that have been proposed by various stakeholders for the Cockpit Country - which is rich in biological diversity and a crucial source of freshwater for Jamaica - over the years are:

- the Cockpit Country Stakeholders' Group boundary that takes in St Ann, St Elizabeth, St James, and Trelawny and which would deny access to some 300 million tons of bauxite or US$9 billion.

- the Ring Road boundary that takes in Trelawny and St Elizabeth and which would deny access to 150 million tons or US$4.5-billion; and

- the Sweeting/University of the West Indies (UWI) boundary projected to incur losses of US$4.2 billion or 140 million tons of bauxite.

There are, too:

- the Maroon boundary comprised of Trelawny and St Elizabeth, and which would amount to US$3 billion or 100 million tons of bauxite lost;

- the Forestry Reserve boundary that cause a loss of US$450 million, or 15 million tons of bauxite; and

- the Jamaica Bauxite Institute boundary, which would incur losses of US$300 million or 10 million tons of the ore.

In addition to the time and money invested in developing those boundaries, the UWI Centre for Environmental Management in 2013 led a series of public consultations on the boundary with a report done and submitted to government with a raft of recommendations on the way forward.

Among other things, the report - written by Dr Dale Webber and colleague Dr. Claudel Noel - warned government against authorising "any form of exploration of mineral deposits, mining and quarrying activity" in the area.