Environment Etc

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C-CAM hunts cost-benefit analysis on Goat Islands proposal

Posted on March 20, 2014 at 5:30 PM

THE Caribbean Coastal Area Management (C-CAM) Foundation is moving to bring sobriety to the raging debate over the proposed port development at the Goat Islands.

In a release issued earlier today, C-CAM, which does conservation work inside the Portland Bight Protected Area, revealed it is seeking funds to hire an international firm “to do a cost effectiveness comparison” of developing the port at the Goat Islands relative to one other site — “time permitting”.

“Much of the current Goat Islands discussion pits the environment against the economy, but we believe the two don’t have to work against each other,” Ingrid Parchment, Executive Director of C-CAM, said in the release.

“We want to understand our nation’s options by getting a better sense of the financial and environmental costs of the proposed port development versus other potential sites,” she added, revealing the rationale behind C-CAM’s actions.

Since it emerged last year that Government was contemplating the use of the Goat Islands to facilitate the port development by the Chinese, little concrete information on the precise scope of work proposed has been forthcoming — and then, only after much wrangling.

The Jamaica Coalition of Civil Society and individual entities, such as the Jamaica Environment Trust (JET), have come out against the proposed development even as they have tried to wrest information from Government and lobbied for a public consultation on the issues.

JET has gone as far as to file an appeal with the Access to Information Appeals Tribunal to get its hands on a memorandum of understanding between the Port Authority of Jamaica and China Harbour Engineering Company for the proposed development.

They have, too, sought the support of the Public Administration and Appropriations Committee (PAAC), urging its members to allow them — and other stakeholders, including C-CAM and the Port Authority of Jamaica — to make presentations before the committee.

Government has, in the interim, pointed to the economic opportunity the port development presents for Jamaica and has circulated the Environmental Management Scoping of the Portland Bight Protected Area, including the Goat Islands report, in order to squelch the firestorm of concern over the proposed development.

Their efforts have so far not reaped much, if any, dividends.

Meanwhile, C-CAM-commissioned study is to focus on “the capital and recurring costs of the port and associated infrastructure, such as access roads necessary for the port’s functioning”.

“Financial costs will also include required environmental mitigation,” Parchment noted in the release. “The study will look at environmental costs in both non-monetary and monetary terms. It will put a dollar value on the ecosystem services lost to project damage as well as on the replacement cost for compensating those damages with offsite conservation and/or restoration activities.”

Parchment said further: “We think that it is important to provide another perspective in real economic terms as we seek to continue to promote sustainable development in Portland Bight and the value of our natural resources.”

Once completed, the findings of the analysis will be made available to the public through the media and workshops by June 2014.

— Petre Williams-Raynor

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