JET concerned over 'repeated discharges' into Rio Cobre, says fines too lowWednesday, August 04, 2021
KINGSTON, Jamaica— The Jamaica Environment Trust (JET) has expressed concern over the repeated discharges into the Rio Cobre which it says has negatively impacted the water quality of the river resulting in fish kills and loss of livelihood for fishers and community members.
After a fish kill on Monday, fishermen and homeowners in the Bog Walk Gorge in St Catherine appealed to environmental authorities to take decisive action to stop the contamination of the Rio Cobre. Dead fish, both large and small, were reportedly found floating in the river, and in other parts, a white, froth-like substance had settled.
In a statement, JET said that this has been a long-standing problem, noting that after preliminary tests, the National Environment and Planning Agency (NEPA) has stated that Windalco is likely responsible for Monday's fish kill.
''Over decades and under different management/ownership, Windalco has received multiple breach notices and are currently the defendants in a legal case filed by the National Environment and Planning Agency (NEPA) over a 2019 discharge into the river which resulted in a massive fish kill and several persons falling ill,'' the statement said.
''The repeated nature of these offences suggests a lack of respect for Jamaica's environmental laws and regulations and the human rights of those who have been negatively affected,'' the agency said.
''Unfortunately, the fines for such offences under the Natural Resources Conservation Authority (NRCA) Act are quite low - J$50,000 for a breach of permit, and under the Wild Life Protection Act only J$100,000,'' it added.
''Fines at this level do not act as a deterrent for companies that earn millions of dollars in revenue annually. The NRCA Act allows for a licence or environmental permit for operation to be suspended or revoked. Strong actions such as this should be considered given the recurring nature of the offences. Alternatively, a civil claim could be filed whereby the offending company could be sued for environmental damage and loss of livelihood,'' the statement said.
CEO of JET, Dr Theresa Rodriguez-Moodie, said, “ it is clear that something more radical needs to be done to protect the environment and the lives and livelihoods of communities in the area. The regulatory framework is inadequate to protect our rivers or our people, which all of us should have an interest in.”
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