PM says work completed to protect Cockpit Country
Prime Minister Andrew Holness

PRIME Minister Andrew Holness last Thursday listed a number of new projects which have led to “significant progress” in advancing the protection of the Cockpit Country Protected Area (CCPA).

The prime minister told the House of Representatives in his budget presentation that he was proud to advise members that the work to declare 78,024 hectares of the Cockpit Country a protected area has been completed.

“In my hand is the gazetted order under the [Natural Resources Conservation Authority] NRCA Act, which provides binding legal protection to the area displayed on the map. It is important to note that the protected area is approximately 3,292 hectares larger than the 74,726 hectares which was announced in 2017,” he said.

He said the CCPA is the island's largest terrestrial protected area and, overall, the second-largest protected area, after the Portland Bight Protected Area, which spans 187,615 hectares of both terrestrial and marine areas.

“To facilitate an accurate definition of the boundary of the CCPA, a ground truthing exercise was undertaken. This activity commenced in July 2018 and was completed in December 2021. In undertaking this exercise, the department surveyed and installed geo-referenced permanent markers along 77 per cent of the boundary and used outstanding topographical features to delimit the remaining 23 per cent,” he said.

“We have also included an additional 841 hectares of the 'clawed back' area under mining lease SML173 within the boundary of the CCPA. Concurrent with the designation of the CCPA, the Government has issued the Mining (Prohibition) (Cockpit Country Protected Area) Notice, 2022 under which the entire area is closed to prospecting and mining,” Holness said.

“I wish to also advise the country that the Government will not stop simply with the designation. Work is advanced with the help of the Global Environment Fund to invest US$49 million over the course of the next five years into sustainable management of the protected area,” he stated.

In addition, he said that the Government will move to create a designation under the NRCA Act for ecologically sensitive areas. This will provide a greater level of protection for areas with particular environmental sensitivities. The Government has already identified 16 such areas, nine of which will be in the coastal zone.

The Great Bay Area in south-west St Elizabeth, and the Dry Harbour Area in St Ann are on the list of areas to be protected. This will mean that activities such as mining will not be permissible in these designated areas.

He said that, with the addition of the CCPA and the completion of the new designations, “we will be well on our way to meeting the target of 30 per cent of land and marine areas under protection by 2030”.

BY BALFORD HENRY Senior staff reporter balfordh@jamaicaobserver.com

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