Minister of Water, Land, Environment and Climate Change, Hon. Robert Pickersgill, on January 31, toured the National Environment and Planning Agency (NEPA), in Kingston, to familiarise himself with the work of the agency.
During the tour, led by Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of NEPA, Peter Knight, a detailed outline was given on the work of the agency and its role in promoting sustainable development by ensuring protection of the environment and orderly development in the country.
Highlighting some of the priority areas of focus, Minister Pickersgill said the management of the island’s watershed areas will be critical in the process.
“There are some challenges that we will have to deal with almost immediately, so in terms of prioritising the challenges, there are some that are more urgent than others. I am a little concerned about the watershed areas, because they are directly connected to deforestation,” he said. There are 26 watershed management units in the island.
Some of the issues leading to the degradation of the watershed areas are: unsuitable farming practices; logging – removal of trees for informal settlement, fuel wood, yam sticks and lumber; mining; forest fires; and development (legal/illegal), for example, road with poor drainage and inadequate maintenance.
Interventions that have been undertaken by the agency to address some of these issues include: revision and update of the draft watershed policy; drafting of instructions for regulations to designate a watershed council; permit and licence system; farmers’ training days; public education awareness programme, particularly in schools; other stakeholder groups, for example fishers, community-based organisations and banks.
Turning to staff resources, Mr. Pickersgill said that consultations will be done with the Minister of Finance in this regard.
“The complaint might be inadequate resources and I can understand, so again in that regard I will be endeavouring my utmost to convince my Cabinet colleagues, especially the Minister of Finance, to see what we can do to augment resources,” he said.
Mr. Pickersgill commended the staff for the work they have been doing over the years, in ensuring that the vision of the agency is met.
The vision of NEPA seeks to ensure that Jamaica’s natural resources are being used in a sustainable way and that there is broad understanding of environment, planning and development issues, with extensive participation amongst citizens and a high level of compliance to relevant legislation.
By Chris Patterson, JIS Reporter