Environment

Environmental Awareness Week June 4-9

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

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On the cusp of Environmental Awareness Week, which is to be observed June 4-9, the Government is urging citizens to bear in mind the “extraordinary benefits that a healthy natural environment offers for economic development”, particularly tourism.The words were Daryl Vaz's, the minister charged with overseeing the environment portfolio of the Ministry of Economic Growth and Job Creation. He was speaking last Thursday at the launch of the annual observance, which is an initiative of National Environment and Planning Agency (NEPA) Eden Gardens Wellness Resort and Spa.

“We would not be able to showcase our famous seven-mile beach in Negril, Dunn's River Falls in Ocho Rios, or our UNESCO Heritage site – the Blue and John Crow Mountains Heritage Park — if we had not previously linked an appreciation of biodiversity to our tourism product,” Vaz said.

“However, there remain numerous opportunities for us to respect the environment and maximise our tourism potential,” he continued.

Among those opportunities, he said, is development of the country's eco-tourism product, aspects of which already enjoy international recognition and acclaim.

Using the example of Australia's major wetland, the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park, which records an average of 1.8 million visitors per year, Vaz argued that Jamaica, which is home to several wetlands — four of which are recognised under the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands and are part of the global network of more than 2,200 wetlands of International Importance — “is in a perfect position to expand our eco-tourism offerings”.

Activities for Environmental Awareness Week will be executed under the theme: “Protecting Paradise”, which NEPA says coincides with the United Nations designation of 2017 as the Year of Sustainable Tourism as it highlights the protection and responsible use of the island's natural resources as critical for the sustainable development of the tourism industry.

The activities planned include a World Environment Day Expo in Ocho Rios, a policy dialogue on national guidelines on coastal management and beach restoration in Montego Bay on World Oceans Day, an enviro' talk with students at Swallowfield Primary School, and a hike in the Blue and John Crow Mountains for high school students in collaboration with the Jamaica Conservation Development Trust.

“Our aim is getting people excited about and involved in the sustainable use of the environment. The observance of Environmental Awareness Week 2017 is a critical tool in achieving that aim,” said NEPA CEO Peter Knight of the strategy behind the choice of activities.

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