News

Pedro Cays visit today

BY PETRE WILLIAMS-RAYNOR Environment editor williamsp@jamaicaobserver.com

Tuesday, September 25, 2012    

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THE rescheduled visit by a Government team to Pedro Cays is expected to take place today, just under a week after the planned trip was called off when the Jamaica Defence Force (JDF) helicopter that was expected to transport them developed problems.

The tiny islands — Middle Cay, where most people reside, the Northeast Cay and the Southeast Cay — occupied by more than 400 Jamaicans for up to six months each year have come under scrutiny recently after a recent Jamaica Observer exposure highlighted severe health and environmental problems there.

The area is a major fishing location for Jamaican fishermen.

"I am going to the cays, God's willing, tomorrow (today)," Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries Roger Clarke told the Observer yesterday. He said that seeing "exactly what is there" was vital to the plan to tackle the lack of proper toilet facilities, the absence of running water and the pile-up of garbage on the cays.

The Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries, along with the Ministry of Local Government and Community Development have since met with the Jamaica Environment Trust and the Nature Conservancy to discuss the issues, and have committed to:

* clear the garbage on Middle Cay, which has caused rat and fly infestation;

* conduct a census to capture precise data on the number of people living on the cays and their socio-economic background; and

* formulate a inter-ministerial committee to manage the cays over the long term.

They met again yesterday with representatives from the Ministry of Health, the Ministry of Water, Land, Environment, and Climate Change; the JDF Coast Guard; the National Environment and Planning Agency; the Ministry of National Security; and the Kingston and St Andrew Corporation.

The objective of that meeting, Minister Clarke said, was to get preliminary information on the cays and their inhabitants from researcher Peter Espeut, an environmentalist who has done work on the cays, as a guide to their next steps.

"He has [already] come up with some socio-economic parameters and we don't want to reinvent the wheel," said Clarke, who has committed some of his ministry's resources to the initial clean-up that is to take place at Middle Cay.

"And [from the meeting] we will come to an understanding of a modality as to how we are to approach how it [the solution] is to be done," he added.

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