Who is protecting our mangroves?Monday, September 06, 2021
Jamaica, it seems, is still not aware of the importance of protecting our natural resources.
The removal of Rock Bay mangroves near Falmouth, Trelawny, has begun, apparently facilitated by business interests. Even more shocking, on the south coast, mangroves are being willfully destroyed in the Palisadoes-Port Royal Protected Area.
It is not clear who is responsible, but it is hard to believe that it could be a State agency. This, as on Friday June 4, 2021 the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), National Environment and Planning Agency (NEPA), Discovery Bay Marine Laboratory, as well as representatives from the Ministry of Housing, Urban Renewal, Environment and Climate Change took part in the replanting of some 26 mangrove saplings at three islets along the Palisadoes strip leading to the Norman Manley International Airport within the Palisadoes-Port Royal Protected Area. This was done in support of World Environment Day on Saturday June 5, 2021.
The renewed activities in these protected areas are in contravention of the Natural Resources Conservation Authority Act, 1991, since they are being carried out without the required environmental permit. This indicates that, yet again, forces are at work that have plans to destroy this productive and biologically diverse ecosystem that, among other things, protects the coastline from erosion.
The mangroves provide a home for many diverse land and sea animals, such as the manatee (Trichechus manatus), the American crocodile (Crocodylus acutus), the red mangrove (Rhizophora mangle), and the many epiphytic orchids that live on the trees, as well as the spiny lobster (Panulirus argus), and blue crab (Calinectes sapidus).
Mangrove forests conservation is also key to the mitigation of climate change as they also help to break up waves and protect the coastline from storm surges. The Government knows we are vulnerable to climate change as a Small Island Developing State. So it's surprising that, on their watch and given their public show of support for the adaptation of UNEP guidelines on mangrove restoration for the region which aims to support the restoration of its degraded mangrove ecosystems, this is still happening.
The Forestry Department has to continue to accelerate the restoration of the mangrove ecosystems under their Mangrove Management Plan. NEPA also needs to work more closely with government agencies and local non-governmental organisations and Environmental conservation groups and desist from issuing permits to people or special interests whose intention is to continue to remove the existing mangrove forests.
Collectively, we need to start managing these mangrove forests, which includes catching those responsible for attempting to remove them simply because they want to use the materials, hunt endangered animals within the protected areas, or expand their business interests.
If we do not stop the destruction of the mangrove forests not only will these endangered species vanish, robbing our children and grandchildren of a chance to see and interact with them, but we will also wake up one day to discover all of Trelawny or Port Royal flooded during a tropical storm simply because no mangrove forests exist to stop the oncoming 'troubled' water.
L H Deer
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