The Opposition has added their voice to that of several stakeholders calling on the government to reverse a decision it made to grant permission to allow a quarrying company to operate in the Dry Harbour Mountain in Discovery Bay, St. Ann.
The Jamaica Environment Trust (JET) sounded the alarm on the issue on November 6 when it revealed that a agreement inked by then Minister without Portfolio Leslie Campbell overturned a previous decision to deny quarrying in the area.
Opposition spokesperson on Land and Housing, Senator Sophia Frazer-Binns, has asked that the Andrew Holness-led administration provide clarity on the matter, particularly in light of the fact that technocrats had previously denied the permit.
Frazer-Binns noted with concern that the government had ignored numerous objections and appeals from residents and stakeholders, as well as, a comprehensive and compelling environmental impact assessment showing the irreparable damage that will occur.
Frazer-Binns said the concerns raised, coupled with objections from state agencies, made it clear that the Government acted irresponsibly and erred in its use of the ministerial powers under the NRCA Act in granting permission to Bengal Development Limited / Jamaica World LLC to mine and quarry bauxite, peat, sand and minerals.
“Bengals obligation to pay a J$40 million environmental performance bond, the projected J$635 million Government earning in taxes and the positive impact on employment cannot offset the lasting ecological, hydrological and biodiversity damage to the area,” said Frazer-Binns.
Frazer-Binns further said the government must rescind the Ministerial order which overrides the decision of the National Environment and Planning Agency (NEPA).
The senator also wanted the government to address the following questions:
1. Was a hearing held and if so who were the members of the panel
2. What if any were the considerations to which the Minister addressed his mind
3. Did the Minister consider the provisions in the Development Order 2000 which provide that the area must remain in its natural state
4. Did the Minister consider the views of the residents in and around the community
5. Did the Minster consider the view of the Forestry Department on the deforestation that would result from such activities.
6. Does any of the Directors, Shareholders, partners or stakeholders have any connection to the Jamaica Labour Party?
According to Frazer-Binns, the government at minimum owes an explanation to the people and must answer these questions honestly.
She urged the Government to learn the lessons from the devastation caused by recent rains and how damage to the environment contributed significantly to this. The Dry Harbor area has new emerging and unnamed flora and fauna species presently .
“Mining/ Quarrying of any kind is one of the most exploitive activities and studies have revealed that it is the single largest contributor to deforestation in Jamaica and deforestation is one of the major causes of landslides,” said Frazer-Binns.
“We are urging the Prime Minister to demonstrate a commitment to the proper management of our environment and cancel the permit to allow mining on lands in the Dry Harbour Mountains,” she added.