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Earth Today | Trelawny NGO wants stakeholder oversight for Cockpit Country

Published:Wednesday | January 3, 2018 | 12:00 AMPetre Williams-Raynor
Prime Minister Andrew Holness
Hugh Dixon

THE Southern Trelawny Environmental Agency (STEA) has made its own additions to the environment wish list for 2018, with a call for a "government-appointed, broad-based stakeholder and bipartisan committee vested with the authority to craft a sustainable economic development plan for the Cockpit Country Protected Area.

"The aim would be to submit a comprehensive plan to the Cabinet that can clearly identify sustainable economic activities that can be implemented to produce economic prosperity for Cockpit Country buffer zone communities, and Jamaica's economy as a whole, in light of climate change," said STEA boss Hugh Dixon.

The organisation's call comes in the wake of the longed-for government decision on a boundary for the ecologically sensitive Cockpit Country, which, according to the Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund's Ecosystem Profile: Caribbean Islands Biodiversity Hotspot 2010 report, is "the source for fresh water used by 40 per cent of Jamaicans".

It is also "essential in moderating the flow and preventing flooding of a number of western Jamaica's rivers" while also supporting "the largest number of globally threatened species of any key biodiversity area in the Caribbean islands 'hotspots', including 11 amphibians and 40 plant species", the report also notes.

The boundary decision, which followed years of robust debate and lobby involving not only environmental advocates, but also members of academia and private interests, was revealed by Prime Minister Andrew Holness on November 21 last year.




"The Parris Lyew-Ayee Jr (2005) boundary is being recognised by the Cabinet as the boundary of the Cockpit Country by the State ... This boundary will be declared and gazetted," he told Parliament.

That boundary, Holness added, comprises "approximately 74,726 hectares and will be referred to as the Cockpit Country Protected Area and will be protected under specific legislation as advised by the attorney general".

According to the prime minister, Cabinet had taken into consideration a variety of factors in determining the boundary, among them "the closed, broadleaf forest cover/primary forest, the rich biodiversity, the hydrology and the important historical, cultural sites".

Meanwhile, STEA's wish list for the new year also extends to the government setting "clear environmental standards for Jamaica as it relates to clean and renewable energy, solid waste, and sustainable livelihood to be achieved in the next five years, considering the impact of climate change.

"I would also love to see greater consultation by the Government with civil society on environmental issues. This would enable the opportunity for exploring a fresh look at sustainable economic development opportunities for Jamaica," he added.