Prime Minister Andrew Holness has assured all Jamaicans and stakeholders that the Government is committed to protecting the environment and ensuring environmental sustainability.
Speaking yesterday (June 5) during a tour of the Cockpit Country and to place the first marker designating the protected area of the Cockpit Country, Prime Minister Holness said he is always sympathetic to the environmental cause.
For the first time in Jamaica’s history, in 2017, Prime Minister Holness announced in Parliament the designated Cockpit Country Protected Area.
In 2018, the Government began a process of ground-truthing to map the specific areas on the ground. That process is expected to be completed in 2020.
The Cockpit Country is part of the protected Forest reserve areas in Jamaica. However, Prime Minister Holness says the Government has gone further to ensure the Cockpit Country is specifically protected.
“There is a certain level of protection. But you want to have explicit protection particularly as it relates where can be mined and where cannot be mined. Government’s commitment and declaration still stands. There will be no mining in the area designated as the Cockpit Country protected area,” said Prime Minister Holness.
The Prime Minister noted that he has heard the concerns of residents in the Cockpit Country areas concerning mining and other activities. He said the Government is committed to ensuring a sustainable solution is found.
“It is never a simple issue. It is a complex one that we have to spend the time to ensure that we get it right. But at the end of the day, we will come up with a sustainable solution. You can be assured that this Government is not running away from the problem or hiding somewhere, I am right here discussing the issue,” assured Prime Minister Holness.
Ground truthing is taking place over a 76,000 hectre expanse of land across the mountainous regions of five parishes in the area designated as the protected Cockpit Country.
Prime Minister Holness said it is a very involved process that will take time. He assured residents and stakeholders that there are common areas of agreement for placing boundaries, which the Government will act on.
“I believe there is still substantial agreement (on the boundaries). I didn’t say there is universal agreement or that everybody agrees. But Government has to act. And in a democracy, the Government tries to act when we have (in most cases) majority agreement. I think what we have, substantially satisfies the major concerns. There are issues which we are going to resolve. There are issues we are going to hear and discuss. But I think what I am hearing from all stakeholders is, where you have agreement already to protect, move fast to protect those areas. What we have settled on, let us protect it,” said Prime Minister Holness.
The European Union has partnered with the Government to provide 16.5 million Euros to fund, over a four-year period, the forest management and conservation plan of the Forestry Department. This includes the current ground truthing exercise in the Cockpit Country.