Save the Goat Islands and Protected Areas of Jamaica
by Steven G. Smith
PBPA, Jamaicas Largest Protected Area
We started our campaign back in early September, 2013, as a result of the announcement by the Jamaican government of an MOU signed in China, outlining the desire to use the Portland Bight Protected Area of Jamaica for a massive transshipping hub and industrial enclave.
The Portland Bight Protected Area
The Portland Bight Protected Area (PBPA) was created by the Jamaican government in 1999 to protect a large marine and terrestrial area on the island of Jamaica, located southeast of Kingston.
Nearby cays such as Little Goat Island are included. It is the largest protected area in Jamaica, and comprises 724 square miles (1,880 km2).
Although the first priority in forming the protected area was to protect the coral reefs, it also serves to protect vulnerable and endemic species.
The PBPA includes 32 square miles (83 km2) of wetlands on the island, coastlines of mangroves, and sea-grass beds that serve as a nursery for fish and shellfish breeding.
The United Nations in 2012 estimated that the mangroves alone in the area were worth USD $45 million each year in carbon sequestration. This figure did not account for the rest of the flora of the area.
What We Need to Protect
According to the IUCN Red List, there are a total of 59 critically endangered species, and 77 endangered in and around Jamaica.
This includes plants and animals, both on land in the waters, as well as migratory birds.
On land, there are 81 square miles (210 km2) of dry limestone forests, 60 known caves, and it includes a population of 50,000.
Part of the task in forming the PBPA going forward is to find a balance between protecting the ecosystem from destruction by economic development and allowing the human inhabitants a means to live and work.
We see the Biosphere Reserve program as a viable means to accomplish this.
Development Project in the Goat Islands
August 29, 2013, the Government of Jamaica proposed to develop the Goat Islands, in the PBPA, as a transshipment hub in conjunction with the Chinese government.
The proposal for a coal fired electrical plant, storage facilities, factories, warehouses, bridges, water treatment & waste facilities, a deep water port, and the latest addition--a factory to assemble heavy cranes for the shipping industry--will destroy the area forever, all for a promise of maybe 10,000 jobs and an investment by China of USD $1.5 billion.
As Jamaica will own very little of this, the best they will see are low paying jobs, while the bulk of the money returns to China.
Holding the Government Accountable
Our mission is to hold the Government of Jamaica accountable for the commitment they have made to hold the PBPA in trust for the citizens of Jamaica, the public and future generations.
We also wish the Government of Jamaica to recognize both local and international laws and agreements to which they are a party to, and uphold them.
We will continue to call for the Biosphere Reserve application that has been filed and accepted by the UN to move forward.
Preserving Cultural Heritage
We also seek for the Government of Jamaica to recognize that this area was once home to the Taino Tribe, and as such, the area is rich with cultural heritage.
We view any violation of this area for the proposed development of the transshipping hub and its massive complex as a violation of the Constitution of Jamaica under the amended charter of Freedoms & Rights that raises the protection of the environment to that of a human right.
We also see it as our mission the help inform the public and support those agencies working in Jamaica on this issue.
A Call For Sustainability in Jamaica
We are not against progress, and understand that Jamaica needs a sustainable economic future.
However, this should be done responsibly, while keeping in mind the limited natural resources of Jamaica.
We have maintained that Jamaica can have both the Biosphere Reserve and the Logistics Hub without having to sacrifice one for the other.
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