Hoteliers say no to breakwater project
NEGRIL hoteliers yesterday registered their disagreement with plans by the National Works Agency (NWA) and the National Environment and Planning Agency (NEPA) to use breakwaters as a means of reducing coastal erosion in the western tourist city famous for its seven miles of white sand beach.
At a press conference organised by chairman of Couples Resorts Lee Issa at the Jamaica Pegasus hotel in Kingston, the hoteliers argued that a breakwater system, also called a bulkhead — which are boulders deposited in the sea to reduce the intensity of wave action — will do more harm than good to their livelihood and the environment.
Hurricanes, they said, could force the boulders from the sea and onto their properties since they will not be anchored to the seafloor.
"We are here today because of a plan to halt or at least reduce this beach erosion which is affecting the tourism product in Negril using breakwaters," said Issa, who spoke on behalf of the hoteliers.
"I am extremely concerned about this and I do not think this is the right approach for Negril. I think it is a short-term fix that may not be a fix and then we will be stuck with these structures. My understanding is that they will be visible at low tide and I think this is very undesirable," Issa added.
The offshore breakwater system is to be implemented under the Government of Jamaica's Adaptation Fund Programme at a cost of US$5.4 million allocated from the total US$9.9 million granted through the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).
But Couples' deputy chairman Paul Issa said a better alternative would be sand nourishment.
"We believe the best solution is sand nourishment where there is sand either brought to the beach or pumped up further out at sea. We feel that if there is any solution, that that is the least threatening and probably the best solution," he said.
Lee Issa continued: "I think the stones may move in a storm and cause more damage. We in Negril have been to some consultations on this breakwater proposal and we have learned that an enormous amount of boulders will have to be mined from somewhere else, having environmental impacts in those other places."
Further, he asserted that his colleagues and other stakeholders were not properly consulted before the decision of using breakwaters was made.
"I know that there is a plan to conduct an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) on the building of the breakwaters and that public consultation will form part of that process. But we fear, I fear, that by the time the EIA is commissioned it will be too late to rethink this approach and the breakwaters will be a done deal," he said.
Sophie Grizzle-Roumel, representative of Charela Inn in Negril, added that breakwaters will not only have a negative impact on the environment in Negril, but on tourists as well.
"Can you imagine trucks with boulders moving through Negril in a day? I am concerned about the impacts this will have on our visitors with these heavy truck loads of stones coming through the town," Grizzle-Roumel said.
She was interrupted by retired Negril resident Dian Ennvor who asked rhetorically: "What about the roads which the trucks with boulders will be transported on? Who will fix them after?"
"The majority of the people in Negril don't know that this will be happening and they would be against it," Ennvor added.
Ennvor, who said she has lived in Negril since 1972, told the gathering that this wasn't the first time that the resort space destination has been threatened and spoke of plans to mine a peak as an energy solution for Jamaica.
"Years ago, there was proposed mining in Negril and with the Chamber of Commerce, we had to fight that. They intended to mine peaks because they had an energy problem then, and they were going to use the peak to make energy for the country," Ennvor said.
"The Chamber brought down a world expert who advised us that mining the peak there would not be profitable because it was of poor quality. Now, we are going to fight this just the same. Negril is the most beautiful place in Jamaica and we want it to remain that way. We can't afford to lose our livelihood. This is a whole resort we are talking about," she added.
Also present at the press conference was Diana McCaulay, founder and chief executive officer of Jamaica Environment Trust. For her part, she said that although there is a plan to conduct an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) on the building of the breakwaters and public consultation, stakeholders of every demographic of Negril should have been consulted before the idea was brought to the implementation stage.
"What I think should have happened with this NEPA project is, when it was being written, the people of Negril should have been consulted. Not just Negril, but all of Jamaica. That's when the consultation should have taken place, not at this stage and we are just talking about it," McCaulay said.