MONTEGO BAY, Jamaica - Several interest groups in the resort town of Negril have thrown their support behind a US$3 million project seeking to restore the beach and environment in the area.
The four year project is being spearheaded by the Negril Area Environmental Protection Trust (NEPT), with regulatory and other support from the National Environment and Planning Agency (NEPA), and is being funded by the Global Environment Facility.
Speaking at a stakeholders’ forum in the tourism Mecca recently, Minister of Water, Land, Environment and Climate Change, Robert Pickersgill, urged residents to take ownership for the project which is aimed at the long term conservation of the Negril Great Morass area. He noted that every effort must be made to protect and sustain the project deliverables.
Chairman of the Negril Beach Restoration Committee, Daniel Grizzle, who is also managing director of the Charela Inn Hotel, noted that any further degradation of the beach will cause the tourism sector and the economy to suffer.
He said that the project was of great importance to the country, pointing out that thousands of persons from across the globe pay “fortunes” to enjoy the Negril beach each year and many lives depend on the project’s successful completion.
“It is not just a Negril problem, its Jamaica’s problem and we should make all effort to restore both the wetland and the Negril beach to its former state,” Grizzle said.
Technical Director with NEPT, Simone Williams, said the Negril morass is becoming dry and is plagued by fires, as a result of human activity. These activities include clearing the land for the construction of housing developments and farming.
“The protection from flood or filtering of pollutants that is transported to the coastal areas in the water, those functions have been diminished because as humans we have gone into the wetland and changed it by draining and conducting unsustainable farming among other activities.
“The symptoms that we see that are very visible to us in Negril…fires in the Morass, it threatens the tourism industry which is the base of the Negril economy. So the objective of the wetland restoration project is to put back the water that once would flow over the wetland and keep it wet,” she said.