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‘We Won’t Wreck our Town’

Negril stakeholders steadfast in fight againt breakwater project

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

RESIDENTS and other stakeholders in Negril have ramped up their opposition to the breakwater project to be implemented there with a series of community meetings intended to educate the public on the possible negative effects the structures will have.

The first such meeting, convened a week ago at the community centre at the beach park, drew scores of people, many of whom were compelled by a town crier bearing the message: "Nuh mash up wi lan’ wid yuh breakwater plan".

A breakwater is a structure, usually made of boulders and concrete, designed to reduce the intensity of wave action on the shoreline as a means of reducing erosion. In the case of Negril, two are being planned for a section of Long Bay stretching about a mile and a half.

The National Environment and Planning Agency (NEPA), which is collaborating with the Planning Institute of Jamaica on the GOJ/EU Adaptation Fund project, maintains that sections of the shoreline have eroded "some 62 metres over the last 45 years", and that the plan is "not a shortterm fix, but part of a holistic and sustained restoration effort".

But a growing number of Negril hoteliers say they are opposed to having breakwaters installed for reasons related to safety, beach aesthetics and environmental sustainability.

The structures planned for Negril, they argue, can lead to a stagnation of seawater and can smother the existing reef. They are also concerned about boulders becoming loose and being hurled from the sea onto their properties, as is evidenced in the West End where huge rocks bring back memories of Hurricane Ivan in 2004.

The daily trucking of boulders into the town and the proposed reclamation of a section of the sea to facilitate the development also factor largely among the things to which the group is opposed.

After last week’s presentation, which was done by Sophie Grizzle Roumel of Charela Inn, one woman declared: "We have to find a way to convince them that we’re not going to wreck the town. We need the beach widened, but in the safest way.

"We have to speak up. We have to let our voices be heard in our communities, in our homes, in our churches," she said to applause from the audience.

As she has done in the past, Grizzle Roumel made the point that beach nourishment, coupled with measures to restore the Great Morass to a place of balance, is a more sustainable alternative to the breakwater plan.

"I guarantee a 20 per cent increase in visitor arrival and that it would last 20 years, which would give us time to fix the morass and improve the quality of the water," Grizzle Roumel said of her counter proposal, which was contained in a study the stakeholders commissioned in 2007.

The breakwater project is to be carried out by the National Works Agency, the government body responsible for planning, building and maintaining a reliable, safe and efficient main road network.

"Look at our roads. If the National Works Agency can’t manage our roads, how are they going to manage the sea?" Elaine Allen-Bradley asked rhetorically.

The group is also registering its disapproval by signing petitions to be presented to environment minister, Robert Pickersgill.