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Earth Today | Private, public interests approve effort to make Blue Lagoon untouchable

Published:Wednesday | January 3, 2018 | 12:00 AMPetre Williams-Raynor
Emma Lewis

PLAYERS FROM civil society and the private sector have given their stamp of approval to efforts to have the Blue Lagoon declared a national monument, while stressing the need for a long-term sustainability plan for the attraction located in Portland.

"The Blue Lagoon is a national and natural treasure which has been allowed to deteriorate for far too long. It is heartbreaking to see what has happened to this beautiful place through neglect and inappropriate use. I support the declaration and look forward to its recovery and sustainable management," said head of the consultancy firm Environmental Solutions Limited (ESL), Eleanor Jones.

"So many of our natural assets have suffered from abuse and lack of attention to the 'golden egg' that we market. Tourism is being promoted and we have so much to offer; it is important that we conduct the appropriate due diligence to harmonise development with sound environmental management," she added.

Head of the Southern Trelawny Environmental Agency, Hugh Dixon, was of a similar view.

"The consideration of the Blue Lagoon as a national monument is a worthy step. Declaration by itself is not adequate for any declared site proposed monument. We need an accompanying strategic plan to determine the sustainable development activities that will be undertaken to prevent inappropriate exploitation or cronyism," he said.

Efforts to have the site declared a national monument date back to the 1990s. Those efforts were renewed in 2011 when a preservation notice was issued for the site, which covers an area of more than 14,000 metres square.

In declaring its intentions at the time, the Jamaica National Heritage Trust (JNHT), which is leading the efforts to have the site declared a national monument, revealed that the JNHT Act allowed it "from time to time" to "declare a national monument, any structure the preservation of which, is, in the opinion of the trust, a matter of public interest by reason of its historic, architectural, traditional, artistic, aesthetic, scientific, or its archaeological interest", according to a local news report dated January 25, 2012.

More than six years on, Suzanne Stanley, chief executive officer for the Jamaica Environment Trust, has echoed Dixon's sentiments.

"We were aware that this designation was imminent for some time now. The declaration is a positive first step in protecting the area. We await further details on what management arrangements will be put in place to preserve this important ecological heritage site, how its protection will translate into on-the-ground programmes, and the implications it will have for property owners in the area are also areas of interest to us," she said.

"We hope that this will not be just another 'paper park' and that the official recognition of its importance by the GOJ (Government of Jamaica) will result in improved and informed decision-making about the types of activities and development to be allowed in the area," Stanley added.

Blogger and environmental advocate Emma Lewis said any effort to have the area restored to its former glory is welcomed.

"I welcome the news that Blue Lagoon will become a national monument. There has already been some damage in the creation of a 'beach' there, and general neglect and deterioration in the past few years. I would like to see the area restored to its former beauty, including some reforestation in the surrounding area," she said.

"This should be beneficial to marine life, especially with the recent establishment of a marine park by the Alligator Head Foundation; this dovetails well. It is a precious and unique area and any efforts to preserve it would be welcome. It should certainly be accessible to the public, and carefully/properly managed to ensure no further degradation. Enforcement of regulations is key," she added.

Last month, the JNHT revealed it was still pursuing the declaration of the site as a national monument, with a draft management plan now in place.