Environment Etc

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Breakwaters not a cure-all for Negril - PIOJ

Posted on May 16, 2014 at 3:50 PM

THE Planning Institute of Jamaica (PIOJ) has cautioned that the progressive erosion of the Negril coastline cannot be solved with a single project, even as debate rages over the planned installation of breakwaters to arrest the problem.

“Because of the extensive work to be done in Negril, no one project can address that,” said Claire Bernard, the PIOJ’s deputy director general.

The PIOJ is the national implementing entity (NIE) for the ‘Enhancing the Resilience of the Agriculture Sector and Coastal Areas to Protect Livelihoods and Improve Food Security’ programme of which the breakwaters form a part.

Negril’s internationally renowned coastline has been retreating between one and two metres annually for more than a decade, prompting concern from stakeholders, given the town’s heavy reliance on tourism, which rakes in millions in foreign exchange for Jamaica annually.

Bernard and Programme Manager Shelia McDonald-Miller said the PIOJ had, in fact, contemplated a variety of options to treat with the erosion before settling on the breakwaters as a part of the solution.

“We submitted a draft proposal of the work for the installation of the breakwaters and one of the things that we were advised from NEPA (National Environment and Planning Agency) is that extensive work needed to be done (including) restoration of the reef, putting in sea grass beds, mangroves, and a number of other things,” the PIOJ head said.

“Based on the amount of money available, we said what is most critical for us to do is to increase the climate resilience of the Negril coastline and create structural stabilisation solutions to arrest shoreline retreat in the most vulnerable sections,” she added.

McDonald-Miller said the decision was also informed by preliminary engineering and other studies, among them work done by SmithWarner, which recommended not only the breakwaters, but also beach nourishment and reef extension structures in Central and Northern Long Bay.

Also in the mix were stipulations from the Adaptation Fund through which the programme is financed. “We were guided by the studies about the need that existed and about the available resources, and from the Fund, about how the resources were to be spent and this was thought to be the best solution,” she said.

The NIE’s position is supported by NEPA, which has taken flak over the planned breakwaters on the basis of concerns over the loss of snorkeling ground, damage to marine life and the eyesore the structures will present.

Yet Negril’s challenges extend beyond beach erosion to a dried-out Great Morass, poor sewage treatment as well as poor development planning — all of which are interlinked.

According to NEPA, they have a range of projects planned and are going after funding to address all the issues. “It would suit everybody to see the cocktail of things we have planned for Negril.

The breakwater is not the only intervention we are pursuing,” Chief Executive Officer Peter Knight said. Those efforts include a recently crafted project — done in conjunction with the Caribbean Public Health Agency — which is shortly to be submitted to the Global Environment Facility to support the restoration of the Great Morass, which supports the condition of the Negril coastline.

There has also been some replanting of sea grass beds, though the success of that effort is also tied to the operation of the wetlands.

At the same time, Bernard said Caricom had issued a call two years ago in developing “a pipeline of projects to deal with climate change adaptation and we submitted Negril as one of the areas where additional work is to be done”.

McDonald-Miller has herself urged the patience of stakeholders, noting: “We agree about the holistic approach but the holistic approach does not just happen overnight. We have to take a kind of building block approach. We have to tap various sources to see how we can get the resources to address the wide-ranging problems that exist.”

– Petre Williams-Raynor

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