We are wantonly destroying our 'Garden of Eden' and surrounding seasWednesday, May 26, 2021
Jamaica is said to be a land of wood and water, but the dominant, unrecognised reality is that we are a small island surrounded by a vast expanse of sea, which is vital to our existence.
We are a coastal society in which a large percentage of the population lives on or near the coast. Much of the most important infrastructure is on the coast; for example, the two international airports and the electricity-generating capacity. Essential industries are also sited on the coast, most notably the tourist industry.
And let's not forget the oil refinery, the flour mills, the cement company, and the fishing industry. Essential import supplies come by sea, examples being food, oil, steel, lumber, motor vehicles, medicines, and even the cutlass. Exports of goods go out across the sea, example bauxite, alumina, sugar, and manufactured goods.
The Jamaican people have wantonly despoiled a veritable Garden of Eden and the coastal seas around the island. We have dumped everyday sewage, garbage, non-biodegradable plastics, and dangerous chemicals. We have allowed or overlooked the building of hotels, houses, business establishments, and whole squatter communities on the beach itself. We have decimated our coral reefs and mangroves.
Everywhere in the world the seafront is the most desirable and beautifully developed built environment, like San Francisco, Montevideo, the Mediterranean, and Hong Kong. We have desecrated what was undoubtedly one of the most beautiful natural harbours, the seventh largest in the world, Kingston Harbour.
Apart from the sewage, garbage, and pollution, we have sited on the Kingston Harbour, a cement factory, a mental institution, a Medieval penitentiary, overcrowded low-income housing, an insanitary fishing beach, and a major garbage dump.
Imagine what redevelopment could do for the economy of lower Kingston if the prison and Bellevue were relocated to humane facilities and replaced by modern residential, shopping, dining, and residential development.
Perhaps this is too ambitious, but it is not too late to clean up Kingston Harbour so when we eat locally caught fish we are not praying that it did not come from the harbour. From Harbour View to the Normal Manley airport should be a national park with a resurrected Gunboat Beach as a free-to-the-public facility with proper sanitary and food facilities.
Port Royal, more than happens now, could be a place that cruise visitors could spend the day enjoying dining, shopping for craft, entertainment from the likes of the Jamaica Military Band, trips to Lime Cay, recreational fishing, and visiting museums/historic sites.
It is not Kingston alone that we have ruined, it is almost every part of the coast and in varying degrees all our seaside towns. Our clean-up campaign cannot be confined to Montego Bay and Ocho Rios. We have to come to a new understanding of the seas as our most valuable resource and asset and realise that we are destroying the value of this great asset.
We must preserve our coastal sea and the beach area and mount an environmental preservation campaign that is an investment in the future and that it can provide thousands of jobs for the urban poor and unemployed.
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