Environment

Long Mountain decision long in coming

Wednesday, August 29, 2012    

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THE Natural Resources Conservation Authority (NRCA) could have a recommendation ready for its consideration as early as today on the housing development proposed for Long Mountain in Kingston.

"It [the application] is to going to the technical review committee (TRC) for a recommendation to the authority," Ainsley Henry, acting director of the National Environment and Planning Agency's (NEPA's) Applications Management Branch, told Environment Watch on Monday.

NEPA functions as the administrative arm of the NRCA and host of the TRC, which is a subcommittee of both the NRCA and the Town and Country Planning Authority.

The TRC, which is to meet today, is comprised of entities, such as the Water Resources Authority, the Jamaica Bauxite Institute, the Mines and Geology Division, and JAMPRO, among others.

A year ago, they should have heard from the Housing Agency of Jamaica on the project, which is to see the development of 29.2 acres of land while leaving 193.2 acres of the property for conservation and public open space.

However 12 months on, no decision has been taken.

"This has been a significantly delayed process and it is not typical of what usually occurs. But in this instance, the EIA [environmental impact assessment] was flawed and there was need for multiple public presentations. There have been a couple of them," Henry said, explaining the delay.

"There were some substantive issues which we required some clarification or additional information on," he added.

Henry would not get into details on the "substantive issues" he referenced, but at the time the application for an environment permit for the development was submitted, a number of interest groups voiced several concerns.

Those concerns — aired at a public meeting of the project in July last year — included traffic congestion, the loss of green space in the city and sewage.

The Earthquake Unit, which is based at the University of the West Indies, also cautioned against the further development of the Long Mountain area, noting the possible risk from tremors.

Now it appears most, if not all, the outstanding issues have been addressed and the TRC should be in a position to make its recommendation for a final decision by the NRCA board which is due to meet, Henry said, on September 11.

"The agency [NEPA] is taking a submission with all the documents submitted to the TRC for a recommendation to the authority. I cannot qualify what that is to be," he said. "All the technical documents and the associated information on the project will be presented."

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