KINGSTON — Minister of Housing, Environment and Water, Hon. Dr. Horace Chang, said there will be increased focus on sustainable development to protect the environment, even as the Ministry continues to provide housing for a growing population.
"The basic theme of our Ministry is to have sustainable development. There are those who see conflict (between housing and the environment), but … human habitat has to develop in sync with the natural environment," Dr. Chang argued as he addressed the launch of the inaugural World Habitat Day debate competition for high schools on Tuesday (Sept. 14)at his New Kingston offices.
"We really need to ensure that we maintain an environment that will sustain our life as we know it in a comfortable way. We need to ensure that the development can ensure a minimum quality of life for the growing population and in doing that, we have to have all stakeholders involved in the process," he added.
Permanent Secretary in the Ministry, Genefa Hibbert, agreed that the provision of houses, potable water and the preservation of the environment could not be treated as distinct issues.
She noted that the growing size of the population in Jamaica increases the demand for housing and puts pressure on the environment and the natural resources.
"Our water has to be sourced from increasingly remote areas to meet the growing needs and demands, and suitable areas for housing development have to be found, often at the expense of our green areas and in some instances to potential agricultural lands," she pointed out.
The Permanent Secretary further stated that the growth of cities in size and population means fewer plants and trees, increased carbon dioxide emissions and a preponderance of heat trapping structures and paved roads. She added that these factors increase the annual mean temperatures in urban centres, which give rise to climate change issues.
"Some of these changes, which are already being experienced in the Caribbean region are changing rainfall patterns, including prolong periods of drought, increased storm activity and of course, severe flooding," she noted.
She stated that while the development of the built environment can provide many benefits to society, "it cannot take place in a vacuum and must not take place at the expense of the natural environment."
Commending the students, who will be participating in the World Habitat Day debate competition, she said that "there is no better demographic to foster awareness about these issues than our high school students".
"As generation next, we believe that the lessons they learn today will be put into practice tomorrow," she added.
Eight schools from St. Catherine will be participating in the competition, the first round of which gets underway on Tuesday (Sept. 20). The institutions are: Charlemont High, Tacius Golding High, St. Jago High, Cumberland Technical High, Dinthill Technical High, Spanish Town Comprehensive High, Inswod High, and the Hydel Group of Schools.
Four of the institutions will advance to the semi-finals on Tuesday (Sept. 27) and the two finalists will compete for a trophy and other prizes on World Habitat Day, Monday (Oct. 3). The award ceremony will be held on the same day.
The competition, organised by the Ministry, is being staged urged the theme: ‘Cities and Climate Change'.
By Latonya Linton, JIS Reporter