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Special activities planned locally for World Water Day

Published:Wednesday | March 21, 2012 | 12:00 AM

Christopher Serju, Gleaner Writer

Tomorrow, the Jamaica Conservation and Development Trust (JCDT) will join the rest of the world in observing World Water Day. A walkathon will be held on Saturday at the Mona Reservoir to raise awareness as well as seed money for its ambitious mission of a sustainable development programme for the Blue and John Crow Mountains National Park.

This is one component of the campaign, which is seeking to enlist at least 100,000 Jamaicans as Friends of the Blue Mountains and get them to make a minimal donation of $2,000. Jamaicans desirous of supporting the programme but are not able to do so financially are urged to seek sponsorship for their participation in the walkathon.

While it has the potential to become a world-class ecotourism- and heritage-tourism destination, the project to get this plan realised still remains a vision at this stage, consultant Susan Otuokon told a recent media briefing at the Strawberry Hill Hotel & Spa in Irish Town.

She said the park has "something totally different from what the island has so far and it will focus entirely on visitor experience and its unique natural and cultural heritage - all in a sustainable manner".

Financial constraints

A lot of work has gone into training young people as support staff for the project, which will incorporate communities within and outside the boundaries of the park. However, the long-conceived project has been stalled by a lack of funding to even get it off the ground.

Otuokon shared the staggering estimate to really get the project going: "It is estimated that we need $90 million for the full establishment - all the infrastructure in those communities that we want to start with and that's over a three-year period, staffing, marketing, etc. Then about $8 million per annum for operations and the JCDT has approached several agencies, but we just haven't been successful as yet. Still, we haven't given up," she said.

"This year, we decided that what we want to do is to have this media briefing. It's very important that the media support whatever we're doing to engage the public in terms of support for ... the Blue and John Crow Mountain National Park, recognised not just for its natural beauty, but also for its cultural heritage. We have been working on the nomination of the area as a UNESCO World Heritage Site," she shared.

Partnerships key

Meanwhile, JCDT chairman Robert Stephens emphasised the importance of inclusion and partnerships to ensure preservation of the park's natural assets which is key to its ongoing sustainability.

He said: "The potential really is also to become one of the major destinations for eco/heritage tourism. It's very important that we all work together on involving the communities; people who own properties in the area, to ensure that everybody is aware and is a partner in the whole process of moving towards getting this declared a world heritage site."

The media briefing was timed to coincide with the JCDT's 19th anniversary which is usually observed with Misty Bliss, an annual event held at Hollywell in the Blue Mountains, where people from adjoining communities get to showcase their skills in culture, music, art, craft, food and other areas.