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Gov't to start work on Negril breakwater project by March

BY ALPHEA SAUNDERS Parliamentary reporter saundersa@jamaicaobserver.com
Friday, January 09, 2015


THE Government is pressing ahead with construction of breakwaters in Negril despite persistent pushback from residents, watchdog group Jamaica Environment Trust (JET), and the business community in that resort town.

Chief executive officer of the National Environment and Planning Agency Peter Knight told the Public Administration and Appropriations Committee of Parliament on Wednesday that work should begin by the end of March.

Knight was at pains to stress that there is no truth to claims that no consultations had been done for the project.

"This is not a fact," Knight said. "Dr Barbara Carby was engaged by the Planning Institute of Jamaica, the consultation was done. We have Dr Carby's report that shows that detailed and proper consultation was done with the Negril community. That is the reason why we are six months behind with the project. It is the Negril community that told the consultant what they require to protect the community, and that is what we took to the Adaptation Fund."

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Dr Carby is a disaster mitigation expert and a former director general of the Office of Disaster Preparedness and Emergency Management.

According to Knight, part of the problem is "institutional memory", and the changing of the guard at the helm of various interest groups, such as the Negril Chamber of Commerce.

However, JET's position is that stakeholders representing every demographic of the town, known for its seven-mile stretch of white sand beach, should have had a say before the project reached the implementation stage.

Knight said the breakwater project is an imperative in stemming erosion of the coastline, pointing out that some 30 metres of erosion had taken place in the Long Bay area over the past three decades.

Hotelier Jane Issa, in a letter to the Jamaica Observer this week, sought to demonstrate that the arguments for the project did not hold water. She argued that breakwaters do not accrete sand nor address rising sea levels.

"They are built to prevent sand from further receding, but with no guarantees. The proposed breakwater for Negril would require 14 months of 24/7 hardcore construction requiring a 'construction stage' at the mouth of the river in the centre of town with a crane and barge. Not to mention the scarring of the hills where the boulders will be mined. This 14-month project will cripple all businesses on the West End of Negril for years to come," Issa wrote.

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