Vaz: Negril breakwater issue a priority for Gov’t

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

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MINISTER without portfolio in the Ministry of Economic Growth and Job Creation Daryl Vaz says that the controversial Negril breakwater issue is a priority for his ministry.

"The bottom line is that it is one of the issues for which a paper is being prepared for me for urgent attention," Vaz told the Jamaica Observer on Monday.

This followed a statement from the Chairman of Couples Resorts and President of the Negril Chamber of Commerce Lee Issa on Monday calling on the Negril business community to continue its opposition to the breakwater project.

Issa pointed out that last year the executive of the Jamaica Hotel and Tourist Association (JHTA) held a secret ballot at Couples Swept Away for members of the Negril chapter to decide on the issue, and the majority voted against the use of the breakwaters.

"The stakeholders have spoken. Doesn’t this mean something?" Issa said, in a particular response to government’s insistence on carrying out the project.

"The Negril Beach comes and goes naturally. Leave mother nature to do her work. If necessary, do sand nourishment, but not the breakwaters, which are irreversible. As with all new and unproven structures, there would be risks. Not the least of all to the adjacent coral reef within the protected marine park, but also to the unforeseen and unpredicted movement of sand," he insisted.

Issa also criticised public officials favouring the breakwaters, for using "fear tactics" to justify the project and get favourable responses.

Issa noted that the government agencies supporting the project have been claiming that Long Bay and Bloody Bay will be under water by 2100. However, he said that the irony is that the breakwaters would not stop rising sea level or accrete sand.

"I am also not sure, while it might protect part of the five-mile beach in a storm surge, other sections of the beach might be devastated. Where is the empirical data to predict the future of Negril’s coastline? This has to be questioned," Issa said.

He stated that contradictory and bad decisions made on the issue so far, would accelerate the destruction of the area’s fragile eco-system.

"This is not sustainable development. We must continue to fight against this breakwater project," he said.

Negril stakeholders, including the local chapter of the JHTA, have been opposing the decision made by the previous government, to implement a breakwater system, with funding from the Adaptation Fund, to resolve beach erosion issues in the Westmoreland resort town. But the business sector thinks that "beach nourishment" is a better solution for Negril, as it is a non-intrusive procedure that would require only four to eight weeks to achieve.

However, despite their objections, former Minister of Tourism Dr Wykehan McNeill, who is also the member of Parliament for the area, and the previous government had insisted that the breakwater project is an imperative in stemming the erosion of the coastline. They have also pointed to the erosion taking place in the Long Bay area over the past three decades as an ample reason.

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