The Jamaica Environment Trust (JET) is concerned that major roadwork in Portland was seemingly approved by the National Environment Planning Agency (NEPA) without the conduct of a comprehensive Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) report or consultation with the wider Jamaican public.
In a statement on Monday (October 11), JET indicated that concerned stakeholders expressed their concerns to Member of Parliament Ann-Marie Vaz, but have received no response.
This segment of the roadwork falls under the South Coast Highway Improvement Project (SCHIP) being implemented by the National Works Agency (NWA).
“JET understands that as far back as 2013, an Environmental Assessment Memorandum (EAM) was done for Segment 1: Port Antonio to Harbour View and Segment 2: Mandeville to Negril. This was submitted as part of an Initial Site Assessment Report. In 2014, an Environmental Report was done for the same segments of roadway. Both documents were never the subject of public consultation and are not in the public domain,” JET intimated.
“No matter how minor, roadworks are generally disruptive, and if not properly assessed, implemented and monitored, can result in significant negative environmental and social impacts on surrounding areas,” the group added.
The environmental watchdog shared images of heavy machinery destroying a hill and nearby forest in San San, a growing community on the outskirts of the parish capital and largest town, Port Antonio.
As Portland begins to feel the impact of urbanisation, many residents wonder if the development so promised will come at the cost of the lush vegetation—and effectively leave the parish without any natural barrier from the growing crisis of climate change.
In her remarks, CEO of JET, Dr Theresa Rodriguez-Moodie said, “It is important to adequately assess the environmental impacts of all projects, especially infrastructure projects. The findings from these assessments are intended to identify all possible negative environmental and social impacts so that they can be properly mitigated. It is also critical to consult with stakeholders, works should never be allowed to start without this being done.”
The NWA has said that it has an environmental permit from NEPA, but since no EIA was required, JET contended that it was not yet clear what guided this permit being granted or how it is to be monitored.
“Were biodiversity assessments done before work began? What mitigation measures have been required? More importantly, why was the public not consulted? Is there any intention to meet with the Portland Community regarding this project?” JET queried further.
“The Government of Jamaica, through its local and international commitments, [has] indicated the significance of the country’s natural environment. It is, therefore, even more important that projects being implemented by Government agencies be required to demonstrate a higher level of commitment, transparency and protection of the country’s natural resources,” the group continued.