Prime Minister Andrew Holness has revealed that a decision has been made on the boundaries of the Cockpit Country eco-system.
The Cockpit Country, the majority of which is located in Southern Trelawny, is a mountain range that spans the neighbouring parishes of St. Ann, St. Elizabeth, and St. James. It is the largest contiguous rainforest in Jamaica.
The Cockpit Country supplies approximately 40% of the island’s freshwater and is the home of several plants, insects and animals that are not found anywhere else in the entire world.
There has been an ongoing battle between the government of Jamaica, mining interests and citizens of Jamaica. The government is the middleman between miners anxious to dig into the area for huge stores of bauxite (used to extract aluminum). The citizens are intent on maintaining the natural eco-system and leaving it undisturbed.
In making the disclosure, the Prime Minister refused to give any timeline for neither the revelation of the boundaries nor the implementation of the decision.
The Prime Minister was answering questions from United Nations climate talks in Marrakech, Morroco. It is feared that his response may be to appease the talks and the decision may not be known anytime soon.
Preservationists also fear that it will not be in their interest, considering the emphasis placed on what stands to be lost. Losses are being stated in the billions of US dollars (depending on where the boundaries are placed). Stakeholders fear this may just sway the decision in favor of miners. The question is, will government consider economic growth above environmental concerns?
Here is a concerned comment from the watchdog Facebook group, “Protect Jamaica’s Cockpit Country!”
I have a feeling it is going to be terribly disappointing. All this talk about losses, how can you lose what you have never really had.
Here is another comment:
They always talk about the dollar losses in bauxite, but not the losses because of bauxite. Water, wildlife, tourism – all more important than bauxite in this particular area
The citizens of Jamaica, especially environmentalists and citizens of Southern Trelawny, are anxiously awaiting the verdict, hoping that the government will rule in their favor.
Here is the original article coming out of the Marrakech Climate Change Conference, via The Gleaner.
The jury, at long last, is in on a boundary for the ecological haven that is Jamaica’s Cockpit Country, but alas, the verdict has yet to be announced.
Prime Minister Andrew Holness – also the man tasked to protect the local environment – revealed the decision had been made, during an interview with The Gleaner and Panos Caribbean at the climate talks here on Tuesday evening.
“That is work that has been long in coming, transcending administrations. Cabinet met a month or so ago and we took some decisions. It is now going through the process, being finalised. It has to be gazetted and the public will be aware of what the final decision is,” he said.
He would not put a timeline on when the public will hear the decision.
“I would want to put a timeline on it – not even an estimate. But the decision is made; it is just the technical issues that are being worked out,” Holness said.
The decision on the boundaries has been some eight years, two administrations and certainly more than three environment and/or energy and agriculture ministers in coming.
What is not clear is whether civil society actors, who have for years lobbied for a boundary for the area that is responsible for supplying 40 per cent of the population with freshwater, will be pleased with what government has come up with.
Whatever that is, it will likely be measured against existing proposed boundaries – each of which has been pegged with a dollar figure on likely earnings or loss thereof associated with bauxite mining.
They include the Cockpit Country Stakeholders’ Group boundary that takes in St Ann, St Elizabeth, St James, and Trelawny, which would deny access to some 300 million tons of bauxite or US$9 billion. There are also:
– the Ring Road boundary that takes in Trelawny and St Elizabeth and which would deny access to 150 million tons or US$4.5-billion.
– the Sweeting/University of the West Indies (UWI) boundary projected to incur losses of US$4.2 billion or 140 million tons of bauxite; and
– the Maroon boundary comprised of Trelawny and St Elizabeth, and which would amount to US$3 billion or 100 million tons of bauxite lost.
In addition, there are the Forestry Reserve boundary that would cause a loss of US$450 million, or 15 million tons of bauxite; as well as the Jamaica Bauxite Institute boundary, which would incur losses of US$300 million, or 10 million tons of the ore.