Environment

Save Cockpit Country!

Stakeholders seek 15,000 signatures in Jamaica House petition

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

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Following the launch of a new petition portal by Jamaica House, civil society groups and concerned individuals have uploaded a Save Cockpit Country petition.

It calls on the prime minister to establish the boundary of Cockpit Country to include hydrology, geomorphology, biological diversity, culture and history, and points to the Cockpit Country Stakeholders Group (CCSG) boundary as being the only one which takes all these into consideration.

The petition also asks the PM to close Cockpit Country to mining, quarrying and prospecting in accordance with the community consultations already held and the recommendations of The University of the West Indies boundary study completed in 2013, and declare the region a National Park.

The petition can be found at http://opm.gov.jm/participate/jamaica-house-petition/.

In a statement to the press yesterday, CEO of Jamaica Environment Trust, Diana McCaulay; civil society advocate, Carol Narcisse; and Seven Oaks Sanctuary for Wildlife representative Wendy Lee said Cockpit Country is under immediate threat from bauxite mining, which would remove forest cover, block and pollute waterways, displace residents, threaten agricultural livelihoods, compromise air quality, and threaten the health and well-being of thousands of Jamaican citizens.

“For over a decade the Government of Jamaica has delayed defining a boundary for Cockpit Country, but a decision about this important matter is likely to be taken soon,” the statement said.

“Cockpit Country is the largest remaining natural forest in Jamaica. The fresh water it stores and releases via almost 40 rivers, streams, springs, upwellings, glades and ponds supplies about 40 per cent of western Jamaica's water needs. Jamaica is facing major negative impacts from global climate change — unpredictable rainfall, and extreme weather events including drought. Ensuring the preservation of Cockpit Country promotes climate resilience, is an investment in the future, and literally means fresh water in the bank,” it added.

The stakeholders described Cockpit Country, which has the island's highest percentage of endemic plant and animal species, as an important ecotourism destination, and an important cultural and historical site since it was where the Maroons fought and prevailed over the British in 1738-9.

They also call it a symbol of resistance and triumph, and a sanctuary for the Maroons who still live within its borders.

The Jamaica House portal requires a minimum of 15,000 signatures in 30 days before the Government of Jamaica will consider and respond to the petition.

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