Stay out of Cockpit Country!

Letters to the Editor

Stay out of Cockpit Country!

Thursday, November 19, 2020

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Dear Editor,

It was condescending of the prime minister, who is the minister of environment, to describe as “rubbish” concerns raised by environmentalists about plans to mine and develop parts of the Dry Harbour/Pueblo Bueno Mountain.

He overruled the decision by the National Environment and Planning Agency (NEPA), which denied permission to mine in the area. Other agencies, such as Natural Resources Conservation Authority (NRCA) and Jamaica Environment Trust (JET), have also objected to the development, as well as residents in nearby St Ann communities.

These concerns should not be dismissed as misplaced noise, the prime minister must rely on guidance from experts and not solely base decisions on the economics.

We are also hearing of plans to proceed with bauxite mining through another company in other parts of the Cockpit Country, despite protests.

The Dry Harbour Mountains form the eastern end of the Cockpit Country, that large land mass of inhabitable limestone terrain stretching across 500 square miles from Trelawny and St James to St Ann.

The Cockpit Country is Jamaica's largest natural rainforest and environmentalists once proposed the area be designated a world heritage site to preserve its critical ecosystem and natural beauty. Any form of mining and commercial development would be devastating.

The minister of environment should be aware that the limestone area hosts caves and rivers below the surface which create natural habitats for a variety of species. We should also be mindful of the theory which suggests that some disease-causing pandemics, such as the coronavirus, could be due to man venturing into uninhabitable areas, and disturbing ecosystems, which forces wildlife into areas where humans live.

Environmentalists are concerned about damage to the limestone forests and the watershed which provides drainage. They are concerned about pollution, climate change, and the destruction of endemic and endangered species living in the area. The visual appeal of the mountains will be physically scarred for the long term. Mountains and landforms are part of the natural beauty of the island, it's the environment that attracts tourists to the country.

The company at the centre of the Dry Harbour controversy, Bengal Development Limited, is registered offshore in St Lucia, the parent company is based in Florida, though details about ownership, its directors, and shareholders remain sketchy.

I urge the Government to reconsider plans to mine and develop these areas, the negative effects could be long-lasting and affect generations. Investors can explore other sustainable areas with greater long-term benefits and less costs.

P Chin

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