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Gov't to decide on future of Cockpit Country

BY BALFORD HENRY Observer senior reporter ?balfordh@jamaicaobserver.com

Thursday, July 26, 2012    

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THE Government will make a decision soon on what activities will be allowed in theCockpit Country of west central Jamaica.

Minister of Water, Land, Environment and Climate Change Robert Pickersgill told the House of Representatives Tuesday that his ministry has secured funding for consultations with stakeholders in the Cockpit Country and the general public on the proposed boundary and management plans for the area.

"Very shortly we will have to make a decision as to what allowable activities can take place in the Cockpit Country. I have been meeting with various stakeholders to determine the boundaries and what activities will be allowed," he said.

He recalled that in 2006, due to concerns raised by various stakeholders regarding proposed mining in the Cockpit Country, and the significant threat to the area's biodiversity, the Ministry of Agriculture, through its Mines and Geology division, contracted the Department of Geography and Geology at the University of the West Indies to undertake a study to define the boundaries of the Cockpit Country and the area that could receive protection under the law.

He said that the area was far too important to the country's cultural and environmental heritage to have it jeopardised, as mining could, essentially, destroy the resources found there.

The Forestry Department is finalising a management plan for the area. The comprehensive document will identify the roles and synergies among the major stakeholders, including community members, operating in the area.

The Cockpit Country is made up of several distinct communities, including the Maroon town of Accompong, Flagstaff, Windsor, Wait-A-Bit/Litchfield and Sherwood Content. A number of flora and fauna endemic to Jamaica can be found there. It also contains significant deposits of bauxite.

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