The open letter to prime minister Andrew Holness "expressed dissatisfaction with the reversal of NEPA's rejection of the environmental permit application to allow mining in the Dry Harbour Mountains on behalf of the future generations of Jamaicans who will inherit this land and its resources.
The following is the full text of the letter to prime minister An drew Holness:
19th November 2020
The Most Honourable Andrew Holness, ON, MP
Office of the Prime Minister
1 Devon Road
Dear Prime Minister:
On behalf of Jamaicans who have expressed dissatisfaction of the reversal of NEPAs rejection of the environmental permit application to allow mining in the Dry Harbour Mountains, and on behalf of the future generations of Jamaicans who will inherit this land and its resources, the Jamaica Climate Change Youth Council and other youth environmental groups are calling on you, Hon. Prime Minister, to reinstate the NEPA/NRCA decision to deny this permit application.
We, as a youth coalition that supports sustainable development, recognize the importance of economic development in ensuring our survivability as a country. We also fully appreciate the role of job creation as a part of this process and even more so during this difficult time, as we collectively seek to make our way through this pandemic. Notwithstanding, we believe the decision to permit mining in such an ecologically important area lacks foresight and does not augur well for the future of our country.
There have been many global studies pointing to the irrefutable fact that mining, and other extractive industries, are dying, primarily due to their lack of sustainability. Mining as an industry can only exist as long as there are resources to be mined. Once depleted, mineral rich countries like Jamaica will be left to bear the cost and negative externalities of the industry. This and the fact that mining industries only provide short term employment and economic benefit, makes the associated costs of the environmental and public health consequences too large a risk to permit mining in such an ecologically and hydrogeologically important area.
The Puerto Bueno region is home to over 50 species of birds, including endemic and protected species, as well as a critical habitat for the Jamaican boa, an endangered reptile protected under Jamaica’s Wild Life Protection Act. These biodiversity considerations make the region invaluable to Caribbean biodiversity and ecology. Disruption to the limestone coastal forest of Puerto Bueno will have long lasting negative impacts on one of Jamaica’s important watersheds, further impacting water availabilty feeding into the national supply.
In a time when many areas of the country are without consistent water supply, it is unconscionable that the government would risk sabotaging such a precious resource.
Quarrying is destructive during and post operation. There is no way to repopulate an endemic forest area once it has been mined or quarried out. There is no “buffer zone”that will protect people in the area from the dust, noise and other health hazards generated from the activities involved in the process.
Considering the importance to our future and the value placed on this area by the Jamaican people, we ask that this government uphold its promises and commitment
to sustainable development and environmental responsibility. It is not enough to say that you will observe environmental due diligence, but we demand action, which
starts by giving deference to the decisions of the experts.
We are now living the realities of the impacts of climate change; we are seeing where the impacts are costing people their homes, livelihoods, and their lives. To operate in 2020 without prioritizing the environment and its myriad services in the national development agenda is counterintuitive to sustainable development. Despite Jamaica being lauded internationally for being a leader in climate resilience, we see time and time again, when the rubber meets the road, our natural environment is sacrificed in the name of short term fiscal goals.
As young people, we are disappointed, not just with this decision, but what seems to be the Prime Minister’s negative attitude toward environmental stewardship. Even
though, in his Heroes’ Day address, he called on us to be “environmental heroes” we are being consistently and publicly disrespected and ignored. The Prime Minister
seem to have taken over the role of the technical experts in making decisions. This is far from the democratic model on which our government is expected to operate. To
restore confidence in your leadership of the environment agenda and to restore the confidence of the youth of Jamaica that was promised a future, we ask you to
consider the following:
- Move NEPA to its rightful home as an agency within the Ministry of Housing,
Urban Development, Environment & Climate Change (HURECC) as a display of
commitment to prioritizing the environment in development.
- Commit to review of the legislative framework governing the environment
starting with the NRCA Act and EIA process.
- Commit to no further mining within the Cockpit Country and revisit the CCPA
boundaries previously declared.
- Commit to complete transparency of any decision-making process involving
our environmental assets.
We are the generation that will have to live with climate change and the negative impacts of today’s decisions. It is therefore important that our seats at the table be
seats of value and our involvement in the decision making processes of our country are given the deference it deserves.
Yours Faithfully & Respectfully,
JAMAICA CLIMATE CHANGE YOUTH COUNCIL
IN COLLABORATION WITH THE FOLLOWING YOUTH ORGANIZATIONS:
- Young People for Action on Climate Change Jamaica
- Caribbean Youth Environment Network (Jamaica Chapter)
- Mitigation & Adaption to Climate Change Group\
- UWI STAT Vice Chancellor's Ambassadors
- Youth Climate Change Activists
- Jamaica Environmental Entrepreneurs Advocacy Network
- The #Youth4PuertoBueno Movement
- Countries: Jamaica