Chief Executive Officer of the National Works Agency in the Ministry of Transport and Works, Patrick Wong, is emphasizing that the Palisadoes Shoreline Protection and Rehabilitation Project will not be destructive to the environment, but will rather assist in preserving the natural resources of the shoreline. He assured that the work on the Palisadoes is a solid investment geared towards the protection of the economic viability of Kingston and its environs, and for Jamaica in general. Mr. Wong was speaking at a joint media briefing with the Ministry of Transport and Works and the National Environmental and Planning Agency (NEPA), geared at clarifying environmental concerns surrounding the works to be done on the shoreline. Mr. Wong pointed out that the scope of the project includes the raising of the roadway by 2.4 metres in order to militate against flooding of residential and commercial sites, and assured that the replanting and replacement of lost vegetation will be done as part of the license requirements from the regulatory agencies, such as the National Environment and Planning Agency (NEPA).
“We are ensuring that any plants that are endemic to that area will be protected and relocated because over the years we have lost approximately 40% of plants along the shoreline due to natural disasters. We are looking to protect the future of the environment. The relocated areas have already been identified so that revegetation can take place.”
He explained than an Environmental Impact Assessment (which is a comprehensive document) was done for the project in 2007 when the project was proposed to be undertaken by a Cuban firm, which required the dredging of 1.1 million cubic meters of sand from the shoreline, but the proposal was rejected based on the low level of sustainability and the nature of damage that would have occurred. Mr. Wong further added that the updated design for the project in 2009 eliminated the extensive dredging and modified the scope of work to include protective works capable of withstanding a category 4 hurricane, and a shelf-life of up to 100 years.
Meanwhile, Chief Executive Officer at the National Environment and Planning Agency (NEPA), Peter Knight, is also allaying fears relating to the environmental concerns surrounding the project. He said that based on the comprehensive Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) which was carried out in 2007, there was no need for a second EIA, but rather approvals and consultations based on the modified scope of work. He said that the permits granted for the work to be done were not just from NEPA alone, but from the Natural Resources Conservation Authority (NRCA), which includes input from the various regulatory agencies. He also added that reports of destruction to endemic plants are simply not true.
“There have been reports of damage to areas allocated as ‘Turtle-Nesting’ areas, that also is not true because based on the specifications of the project and additional research, the areas for which approvals have been given are not a turtle nesting sites. We have an intensive monitoring and enforcement plan in place, and I want to publicly support the National Works Agency, not from the licensing side but in relation to the bigger picture and what is best for the country in general.”
Jamaica is a signatory the Ramsar Convention, for which members are required to maintain the ecological character of their Wetlands of International Importance and to plan for the "wise use", or sustainable use, of all of the wetlands in their territories.