NEGRIL, Westmoreland — Head of the EU delegation Paola Amadei has made a pitch for the Government of Jamaica to promote Royal Palm Reserve in Sheffield as a tourist attraction.
The reserve is a 298-acre peat bog named for the country's endemic Royal Palm or "swamp cabbage", which are distributed only in western Jamaica. It features a mile-long boardwalk through a forest that is home to myriad species of flora and fauna, several of which are found only on the island. A 40-ft observation tower gives spectacular views of the Silver Spring Mountains, and the Fish River and Springfield hills.
It is owned by the Petroleum Corporation of Jamaica and forms part of the Negril Great Morass, which, along with the Lower Morass in Black River, St Elizabeth, is an expanse of 6,000 acres of marshland or swamp.
A morass is a soft, wet area of low-lying land that sinks underfoot.
"This is one of the places I like the most in Jamaica," said Amadei on Wednesday, after asking an audience of mostly Kingston-based Government workers and a sprinkling of journalists at the commissioning of an automatic weather station how many of them had visited the reserve before. A round of telling laughter was her response.
"I find it a wonderful environment and a treasure that should be more widely known. So, I think it's a very good opportunity also to make a pitch in order for the Ministry of Tourism or the Ministry of Environment to make Royal Palm Reserve one of the strong points of the promotion of this part of the country," the EU ambassador said.
"I count on you, minister," she said, speaking directly to Ian Hayles, minister of state in the Ministry of Land, Water, Environment and Climate Change. "Work on it. I know your constituency is very close. If this place were to become better known it would bring benefits to the community around."
Hayles, who was reassigned from the agriculture ministry in December last year, is member of parliament for Western Hanover.
Mayor of Savanna-la-Mar Danree Delancey echoed Amadei's suggestion, saying that the reserve had a lot of potential for Negril itself and Jamaica on a whole.
"It should be developed and shown to the world so tourists can come here," he said.
The automatic weather station was procured under the second phase of the Risk and Vulnerability Assessment Methodology Development Project (RiVAMP II) designed by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) to make use of environmental data in the vulnerability assessment of a particular area.
It is solar-powered and features a wind vane for detecting wind direction; an anemometer for measuring wind speed; a rainfall recorder; sensors for temperature and humidity, as well as devices to record UV and solar radiation. Once collected, the data is relayed to a console that records the information.
The equipment, Hayles said, will assist in the predictions for climate change and are particularly important in light of the indicated projections for sea level rise for Negril for 2030, 2050 and 2100.
"The installation of this equipment is important as we seek to monitor weather and climate information across Jamaica. I want to encourage other stakeholders to assist the Meteorological Service of Jamaica and the Water Resources Authority, where possible, to increase the coverage of automatic weather stations across the island, he said, pointing to what he said were existing data gaps.
Also Wednesday, a rainfall recorder was commissioned at the Cave Valley Health Centre in Hanover.
Speaking to the EU's involvement, Ambassador Amadei said climate change was a flagship policy of the organisation, particularly in the Caribbean and other Small Island Developing States where the protection of the environment are core aspects of the partnerships forged.
"The European Union has long been committed to international efforts to tackle climate change and felt the duty to set the example at home. Therefore, the leaders have decided to transform Europe into a highly energy-efficient and low-carbon economy and for 2020, the EU has committed to capping its emissions to 20 per cent below the level of the 1990s, and for 2050, EU leaders have endorsed the objective of reducing Europe's greenhouse gas emissions by 80-95 per cent compared to the '90s level," she said.
"However, as stated by the commissioner of climate change, international collaboration is absolutely indispensable to solving climate change and the EU cannot solve the problem on its own," she added.
The first phase of RiVAMP was a pilot study in the Negril Protected Area in 2010 and 2011, which showed considerable erosion of the coasts as a result of the loss of seagrass beds and coral reefs in the last 40 years. It recommended "urgent restorative action for the ecosystems" given the threats of climate change and human activity in the area and touted area-specific data as key in that process.
RiVAMP is a component of the broader Climate Change Adaptation and Disaster Risk Reduction Project, which is a collaboration of the GOJ, the EU and UNEP, with UNEP and the Planning Institute of Jamaica as co-managers.
The EU has put in the lion's share of the financing, with some $450 million to date. Coupled with the $951 million in budgetary support specifically for mitigating the effects of natural disasters announced last week, the EU is putting its money where its mouth is.
And, according to Amadei, it's only the beginning. "This is a start and more is yet to come," she said.