ALLIGATOR POND, Manchester — Although plans are afoot for a massive beach development to be funded by the Tourism Enhancement Fund (TEF) in this community on Jamaica's southern coast, there is still concern that the long-standing issue of erosion has not been addressed.
Manchester Parish Development Committee (PDC) Chairman Anthony Freckleton is frustrated by the long wait to address the problem, even though the World Bank has funded an environmental study.
“The World Bank has Alligator Pond on its programme to address the beach erosion down there. A consultant was hired [but] it is taking too long. Over three years now we can't get any action [and] as we go along more erosion is taking place,” said Freckleton.
He has been an advocate for the shoreline reclamation project which will impact the quaint fishing village close to the St Elizabeth border in south Manchester.
“The PDC started the Alligator Pond reclamation project, so over the years what we did [was] we got some funds from the Environmental Foundation of Jamaica. We did a bathymetric survey to determine what was causing the erosion there and based on that get some recommendations as to what could be done to replenish the shoreline,” said Freckleton.
He cited the replenishing of the shoreline in Old Harbour and Negril as evidence of what is needed to be done to Alligator Pond, based on the survey.
“It has been done in Negril with the same technology and in Old Harbour. It's like some pyramids — 15 feet tall, made out of concrete with holes in the middle — that will break down the waves coming in,” he explained.
Some areas of Alligator Pond, between Top Bay and where locals refer to as 'River', have lost over 100 feet of shoreline since Hurricane Ivan in 2004.
The National Environment and Planning Agency (NEPA) is responsible for the oversight of any environmental plan to address beach erosion.
Director for environment management and conservation at NEPA, Anthony McKenzie, told the Jamaica Observer in a recent interview that the problem is not unique to Alligator Pond.
“We are aware of the erosion along the coast at Alligator Pond… There are other places along the coast. It is actually an islandwide phenomenon,” said McKenzie.
He said Alligator Pond is one of eight locations islandwide that has been prioritised for an environmental study funded by the World Bank.
“Alligator Pond was prioritised by the Government for detailed assessment in relation to the World Bank study. That assessment is being completed as we speak and it will make recommendations in terms of response measures that will be necessary to mitigate the impact,” said McKenzie.
“I'm not able to say what those measures will be at this point, but it will come out of the assessment that is being done… The assessment should be completed shortly. It is funded by the World Bank and is being executed through the Jamaica Social Investment Fund (JSIF),” he added.
However, McKenzie pointed to the impact on sand dunes caused by construction activities.
“There are areas where people have impacted the sand dunes, so they have had people living on the dunes and construction activities taking place on the dunes, that would also have an impact,” he said.
He said options will be explored going forward.
“The Government will be looking at various funding possibilities, so the study will inform [as to] the general recommendations and measures to be taken. From there we hope that we can go into an implementation phase in terms of actual work on the ground to address the problem,” he said.
When asked about the environmental impact and considerations for the planned beach development at the western end of Alligator Pond, McKenzie suggested that it was unlikely to have negative environmental impact.
“You will notice that it is located away from the beach area on higher ground in terms of what is being proposed [for construction]. There will be use of other features, so it is an integrated project concept,” he said.
Meanwhile, Member of Parliament for Manchester Southern Robert Chin told the Sunday Observer that in recent weeks Alligator Pond residents have been sensitised about the proposed project.
“We had a town hall meeting informing and getting feedback from the residents. We showed them how it would look, the build out...It is a great project. It is a unique topographical feature where the river meets the sea,” said Chin.
“The area is earmarked for development and it will probably be over a two-year period. In the first year, they plan to spend just under $200 million to develop the basic infrastructure that is needed,” he added.
The scope of work will include a designated parking area, pavement, shops, changing areas, a security booth and a foot bridge and is expected to become an attraction for Jamaicans and tourists.
Chin said there is no given timeline for the commencement of the project.
“They (TEF) did indicate that they have source of funding, but they didn't indicate a timeline,” he said.