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End secrecy re Goat Islands port development - JET

Published:Tuesday | January 7, 2014 | 12:00 AM

The Jamaica Environment Trust (JET) has noted that the Jamaican Government has finally admitted to 'deferring' the application for UNESCO Biosphere Reserve status for the Portland Bight Protected Area after a protracted application process.

JET's chief executive officer, Diana McCaulay, attended a meeting at UNESCO in early December 2013, where it was stated that the final application, including the question of zoning, had been submitted by the Government to UNESCO in November 2013.

Only a few weeks later, it was unofficially revealed at that meeting that the application had been 'deferred' by the Government. Attempts to get official confirmation of this were unsuccessful at the time, noted JET in a press release yesterday.

"The lack of transparency that has attended this important matter from the outset is nothing short of disgraceful," McCaulay stated.

"How can the GOJ (Government of Jamaica) support a process to get a Biosphere Reserve designation for Portland Bight and then suddenly end the application process without any notice or discussion with stakeholders?"

Sustainable balance

In the release, JET emphasised that a Biosphere Reserve was not a wilderness designation.

In fact, the release said, UNESCO's Man and the Biosphere Programme is based on ensuring a sustainable balance between the goals of conserving biological diversity, promoting economic development, and maintaining associated cultural values.

Each Biosphere Reserve is intended to fulfil three basic functions:

Conservation - to contribute to the conservation of landscapes, ecosystems, species, and genetic variation;

Development - to foster economic and human development which is socio-culturally and ecologically sustainable;

Logistics - to provide support for research, monitoring, education and information exchange related to local, national, and global issues of conservation and development.

"For the GOJ to pull out of this programme clearly demonstrates their lack of commitment to sustainable development, whatever they might say," continued McCaulay.

JET is now calling on the Government to release all known details about the port development in the Portland Bight Protected Area immediately so that adequate public consultation can commence.