Gov't had no option in Dry Harbour Mountain issue, says Dabdoub

Gov't had no option in Dry Harbour Mountain issue, says Dabdoub

Tuesday, November 24, 2020

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Attorney-at-law Abe Dabdoub is adamant that the Government had no option but to allow the appeal by Bengal Development Limited to conduct mining and other developments in the Puerto Bueno Mountains, also called Dry Harbour Mountains in St Ann.

“My considered opinion [is] that given the background facts… the minister with the portfolio responsibility had no choice but to approve the appeal, subject to imposing as conditions the various recommendations from the ministries and agencies involved,” Dabdoub said in a letter to the Jamaica Observer.

“To do otherwise would have amounted to the perpetuation of a grave injustice thereby forcing the company to seek the Supreme Court's intervention in order to secure its rights,” added Dabdoub, who is the attorney representing the company.

He said over the past 10 years Bengal has expended considerable resources in seeking to obtain a quarry licence for a section of the property and had been in negotiations with the National Environment and Planning Agency (NEPA), which directed that an environmental impact assessment (EIA) be obtained.

“An EIA report was painstakingly prepared and submitted to NEPA in May 2019 which it then circulated to the various ministries and agencies involved in assessing the environmental impact of the application to establish a quarry on a part of the property. The EIA report was also circulated to other stakeholders to obtain feedback,” said Dabdoub.

He argued that on January 3, the Mines and Geology Department recommended approval of the project and indicated that it was willing to support the preferred alternative involving the project as proposed, with conversion into a renewable energy source upon the decommissioning of the quarry operation.

“Mines and Geology also recommended that public concerns be addressed through increased public sensitisation forums and community-based stakeholder meetings. [It] also imposed nine conditions covering noise and dust, sprinkling of roads, road signs, including the rehabilitation of the quarried area to the satisfaction of the commissioner of mines and NEPA. The applicant agreed with these recommendations,” added Dabdoub.

He said the Water Resources Authority, the St Ann Municipal Corporation, the Ministry of Health, and the National Heritage Trust also offered no objection to 123 acres of the 572-acre property being designated for quarrying, while making several recommendations on issues such as air quality control, waste water generation, and noise nuisance.

“As can be seen from the above, the applicant company submitted an EIA report, which was submitted and approved by all relevant ministries and agencies with their recommendations and imposed conditions.

“The residents', stakeholders' and NGOs', [non-governmental organisations] environmental and other concerns were all taken into account, recommendations made and conditions imposed for the grant of the environmental permit. The application should therefore not have been turned down and was in fact not turned down by the technical personnel,” declared Dabdoub.

The attorney noted that when the Natural Resources Conservation Authority (NRCA) turned down the application the company decided to exercise its right of appeal.

“Some of the reasons for the refusal to grant the permit were made on a basis which factually did not exist. The appeal was heard in July of this year when the minister reserved the decision pending review and consideration of all the evidence placed before the tribunal,” noted Dabdoub.

With several environmental groups urging the Government to reverse its decision to grant the permit, Dabdoub charged that there was misinformation and erroneous assumptions of damage to the environment being reported.

“The area for which the permit is granted is located to the far western side of the property, situated away from the bluff/cliff that has been reportedly referred to in various social media and newspaper articles,” declared Dabdoub.

He added: “One appreciates the work that the various stakeholders, NGOs and environmentalists do, but we all need to understand that in the eyes of the law we are all equal and have equal rights and opportunities which are all subject to the law.

“We are all entitled to be treated fairly and without discrimination. The minister cannot, and should not in good conscience, ignore the evidential facts and act on the whim and fancy of persons who have different agendas, even after their concerns have been taken into account,” charged Dabdoub.

In defending the Government's decision Prime Minister Andrew Holness insisted that an enlightened decision was made in confronting the need for economic growth while ensuring sustainable development, especially in a pandemic that has claimed jobs and much-needed revenues.

According to Holness, the Government has imposed 72 conditions on Bengal and if these are violated he would be the first one to shut it down.


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