Students fight to save Kingston Harbour
The following is an edited version of Kingston Harbour facts, compiled by the Students Environment Network (SEN) as part of their ‘Save Kingston Harbour’ campaign. On February 24th, the group hosted a media tour of the harbour to heighten awareness among the Jamaican public.
The Kingston Harbour is considered to be the seventh deepest natural harbour in the world and one of the island’s most important natural resources.
The harbour is a major transhipment port for the region and facilitates goods that are traded between North America, South America, Central America and the Caribbean. This means that the shipping and port industry in Jamaica is a direct beneficiary of the harbour. In 1995, the total earnings generated by the shipping industry was US$40 million.
Many fishermen use the harbour to catch fish in order to support their families. In previous years the average yield of fish caught was 50 kilogrammes. Research shows that in 1967 the fish caught was between 400,000 and 800,000 kilogrammes. In 1976, Dr Barry Wade described the Kingston Harbour as a “highly productive body of water”.
The harbour was once a major recreational area for many Jamaicans particularly those living in the Corporate Area. Almost 100,000 persons used the beaches annually in the 1980s. Many persons recalled days on which swimming in the harbour was their favourite pastime.
According to Dr Wade “the Kingston Harbour is the most intensively used recreational facility in Jamaica offering the greatest range of attractions of any single environment in the island”. Activities in the harbour included swimming, skiing, sailing, snorkelling and sun-bathing.
The harbour has the potential of generating well-needed revenue through tourism. Cruise shipping facilities could be developed that would attract over two million visitors annually. The waterfront can be developed to accommodate sidewalk restaurants, expansion of the craft market, duty-free shopping areas and the ferry service.
The harbour could also be established as a major educational and recreational area in Jamaica as it boasts one of the most diverse ecosystems in this hemisphere.
In the past many different species of plants, mammals, reptiles, birds and fish could be found in the area. This included manatees, dolphins, oysters and shrimp. In 1967 studies showed that approximately 100 manatees were present in the waters.
Despite the many benefits, the Kingston Harbour has suffered from constant degradation over the past four decades. The main pollutant of the harbour is sewage, which constitutes to 70 per cent of the problem.
The two functioning sewage plants in Kingston — Greenwich and Western — offer only primary treatment. A good primary treatment plant only removes 30 per cent of the pollution load. This means that the sewage is not adequately treated and is, therefore, considered hazardous to human health. Currently, between 16 and 20 million gallons of sewage is deposited in the harbour each day.
Other pollutants of the harbour include waste, which is mostly deposited from gullies and industrial waste from the factories along the harbour rim. Ships often deposit hazardous waste in the harbour, further adding to its destruction.
There is also a problem with agricultural run-off which finds its way into the harbour via the gullies. Sedimentation has affected the harbour over several years, in particular the area around Hunts Bay. As a result, Hunts Bay is now considered to be “biologically dead”.
Despite the high levels of pollution that exists in the harbour, there is still hope for a comprehensive rehabilitation. This initiative will have to be spearheaded by the government but supported by all our citizens.
It is with this belief that SEN has committed itself to ensure that the Jamaican public is sensitised to the state of the harbour and its importance to the nation.
In this way a lot can be achieved if we all unite for a common cause.