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Earth Today | JET wants civil society participation in spatial planning

Published:Wednesday | April 18, 2018 | 12:00 AM

THE JAMAICA Environment Trust (JET) has called for civil society's engagement in the development of the national spatial plan for the island.

The plan, announced Tuesday, is to ensure the optimal use of land and marine resources, and outline the framework for their effective use and management, while accounting for climate risks.

"JET recently participated in a NEPA (National Environment and Planning Agency) stakeholder consultation to discuss the draft background paper on the natural environment in preparation for the development of the new spatial plan. We found it to be lacking in several areas and some of the data used to be outdated," said JET boss, Suzanne Stanley.

"JET and other stakeholders requested the opportunity to review the paper in more detail and provide written feedback to NEPA. To date, JET has not received any further details on this background paper from NEPA. We are, therefore, understandably concerned about what information on the environment has been submitted to the consultants preparing the plan," she added.


Technical papers


"We insist that the views of civil society working in the areas addressed by the plan be included for it to be effective," Stanley said further.

Her comments come on the back of the Tuesday's signing ceremony for the award of the contract to UK-based Acclimatise that will collaborate with local firms Environmental Solutions Limited and Smith Warner International, for the development of seven technical papers to inform the plan.

The papers will focus on:

- social amenities, including educational, health and sporting facilities;

- public utilities infrastructure, such as water supply and waste water infrastructure as well as the transportation network;

- human and industrial settlements;

- environment ecosystems, including forests as well as protected and conservation areas;

- marine resources;

- land resources, notably soils, mineral resources, geology, and topography;

- coastal resources, to include a look at sea level rise, erosion of the coastline/beaches, and salt water intrusion.

ESL boss Eleanor Jones has sought to quiet concerns over civil society involvement.

"NEPA has done some of these background papers but this process is going to go beyond that. That is why the experts have been brought in to review what has been done and to modify where necessary, bearing in mind that we are really looking through the lens of helping our country to become resilient to the rigours of climate change," she told The Gleaner yesterday.

Jones was speaking from an inception workshop involving experts who will work on the technical papers for the plan.

"This plan is about people, so civil society must be engaged. We must take communities, civil society into account," she added.

"There will be technical consultations at different phases of the project and that is where civil society representatives will be engaged through communities. Com-munity people can provide very valuable input because they are on the ground," Jones said further.

At the same time, she said there is no question of the plan's value.

"This has been long in coming, but it is very important, if you are trying to develop your society, that you have a framework within which your development should take place if you want that development to be sustain-able," she said.