The government is moving to establish a regulatory body that will have primary responsibility for environmental policing, compliance monitoring and enforcement.
A Green Paper has been developed for the establishment of an Environmental Regulatory Authority (ERA). Work is being undertaken by a Steering Committee in the Cabinet Office, Office of the Prime Minister, comprising various stakeholders in the environmental field.
Speaking at a JIS 'Think Tank' on September 26, Chairman of the ERA Steering Committee, Rev. Dr. Garnet Brown said the proposed ERA will conduct environmental monitoring and policing and the monitoring of the compliance of the various environmental legislations.
He said the ERA will also be responsible for enforcement, and will respond to complaints and impose sanctions, where necessary.
Touching on the relationship between the ERA and the National Environment and Planning Agency (NEPA), which was set up in 2001 to address environmental concerns, Rev. Dr. Brown said that it is being proposed that NEPA be responsible for planning guidelines and standards, such as the zoning of various areas for development. It is recommended too, that the organisation's responsibility of monitoring and enforcement be transferred to the new entity.
He informed that ERA will not be replacing NEPA. "Both organisations are necessary. I see ERA as a necessary companion organisation to NEPA, dealing primarily with the matter of monitoring, evaluation and enforcement," he explained.
Rev. Dr. Brown said that NEPA's planning functions need to be strengthened and its planning approval process needs to be more "robust." While admitting that the organisation has been doing a good job, considering the constraints, he noted that it is a “loose amalgam of multiple entities, namely the Natural Resources Conservation Authority, the Town Planning Department and the Land Development and Utilisaiton Commission."
According to Rev. Dr. Brown, each entity operates under different Acts, such as the Wildlife Protection Act, the Beach Control Act, the Watersheds Protection Act, the Endangered Species Act and the Local Improvements Act.
"These are all entities and Acts that NEPA has to control, but they are not co-ordinated, and there are about 50 other pieces of legislation which impinge upon NEPA's operations," he said.
"Unification of these Acts under one organisation, and speaking one language is important," he continued.
Rev. Dr. Brown said a series of consultations with public and private sector stakeholders will be held islandwide to get comments and feedback on proposals in the Green Paper. Public consultations will be held in Mandeville, Montego Bay and Kingston with Non-governmental organisations and Public sector entities, including NEPA and the Ministry of Water, Land, Environment and Climate Change.
"The public consultations are supposed to get the opinions of the various stakeholders regarding these proposals, because as you know, in all environmental work and in most things, it is important to have the stakeholders involved," he added.