A coalition of civil society groups, including the Jamaica Environment Trust (JET), Advocates Network, and Jamaicans for Justice (JFJ) is no longer satisfied with the protection or lack thereof afforded to the mighty Rio Cobre in St Catherine, following another industrial effluent from the Russian-owned West Indies Alumina Company (WINDALCO).
The Rio Cobre, which delivers some 40 per cent of all drinking water to Kingston and St Andrew, Spanish Town and Portmore, continues to be besieged by caustic spills that kill local fish, inconvenience residents and fisherfolk and impact the quality of water.
The joint statement, in full, reads:
The undersigned civil society organisations and individuals would like to express our concern regarding
the repeated discharges into the Rio Cobre, St Catherine identified by the National Environment and
Planning Agency (NEPA) as coming from the bauxite-alumina refinery at Windalco in Ewarton, owned
by UC Rusal.
These discharges have contaminated the river, affecting water quality, killing fish and other organisms, and compromising the livelihoods and food sources of surrounding community members.
The most recent spill has also resulted in the interruption of domestic water supplies to parts of Spanish Town and [the wider] St Catherine, as well as the supply of irrigation water to farmers causing them undue expenses to obtain alternative water sources.
We are especially concerned at the long-standing nature of this problem.
Over decades and under different management/ownership, Windalco has received multiple breach and enforcement notices from regulators. They are currently the defendants in a legal case filed by the National Environment and Planning Agency (NEPA) over a 2019 discharge into the river. Last year, there was another similar pollution event on August 2, 2021.
We support recent indications that an environmental performance bond put in place in 2021 will be
called upon to compensate those most affected, including residents of the area, and carry out remediation activities. Our focus, however, is the urgent establishment of effective waste treatment
and reclamation facilities that will ensure spills do not happen in future, even in conditions of heavy
Given the realities of the climate crisis, where Jamaica is likely to experience periods of heavier rainfall
and more prolonged drought, we believe it is imperative that our environmental management regimes
do not continue the errors of the past.
We further strongly believe that we need rational, fair and stringent laws and regulations, with sanctions that provide a deterrent for breaches, in order to protect not only our rivers and freshwater supplies, but the welfare of all Jamaicans.
- Advocates Network
- Anthony Davis of the Charlemont Drive Citizens Association
- Good News Jamaica Communications Limited
- Michael Chamunda Williams, president of the Hope Pastures Citizens Association
- Jamaica Conservation Partners
- Jamaica Climate Change Youth Council (JCCYC)
- Jamaica Environment Trust (JET)
- Jamaica Accountability Meter Portal
- Jamaica Environmental Entrepreneurs Advocacy Network
- Jamaica Institute of Environmental Professionals
- Jamaicans for Justice
- WMW Jamaica
- National Integrity Action Jamaica (NIA)
- Natural History Society of Jamaica
- Dr Horace Levy, Carla Gullotta of Stand up For Jamaica (SUFJ)
- Diana McCaulay, environmental activist
- Laura Facey, artist
- Robert Stephens
- Reverend Peter Espeut, sociologist and development scientist
- Dr Patricia Green
- Dr Barbara Carby, disaster risk reduction advocate
- Deborah Duperly-Pinks
- Mark Martin
- Judith Wedderburn, defender of environmental justice, St Andrew
- Dr Esther Figueroa, Vagabond Media
- Jenny Jones, sociologist
- Judith Salmon, artist
- Carol Narcisse, civil society advocate
- Wendy A Lee, environmentalist
- Adrian O Watson, environmental scientist
- Cecile Johnson Semaj,
- Dr Honor Ford Smith
- Hilary Nicholson
- Dr Anna Perkins
- Father Sean Major-Campbell
- Reverend Hilda Vaughan
- Indi Mclymont-Lafayette
- Jamila Falak
- Linette Vassell
- Dr Maziki Thame
- Nora Blake
- Professor Opal Palmer Adisa
- P.N. Grant
- Rachel Dolcine
- Professor Rosalea Hamilton
- Rosemarie Francis-Binder
- Shirnett Bailey
- Rene Gayle-Roper
- Dr Caroline Dyche
- Mark Cameron
- Rukie Wilson
- Andrew Baston
- Dr Sylvia Mitchell
- Rachel Goffe
- Patricia Donald Phillips
- Wayne Beecher