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The second in a series of public consultations on the Green Paper for the establishment of an Environmental Regulatory Authority (ERA), was held at the Montego Bay Civic Centre, St. James, recently.

The meeting was hosted by the Public Sector Modernization Division (PSMD) in the Office of the Cabinet, and included presentations and discussions on the proposed reform of Jamaica’s system of planning and the regulations.

This will effectively address environmental, social and economic issues, thereby contributing to sustainable development and national economic growth.

In her presentation, Urban Planner, Joan Dennis, said Jamaica continues to face “fundamental problems” in the execution of solid planning guidelines and management, and is in need of a modern, fully integrated planning and regulatory system.

“Why do we continue to fail in Jamaica, in terms of executing solid planning guidelines and management?  Some of the possible reasons are that we have poor planning procedures; the policies overlap and they don’t seem to support and complement each other, and we have weak regulation or enforcement.  One solution to all of this is better planning and regulation,” Ms. Dennis suggested.

She pointed out that in all of this, Jamaica continues to face multiple problems, such as loss of  wetlands, damage to reefs, deforestation, air and water pollution, among others.                                                                            

“How, then, do we fix these problems facing the environment?  The best way to achieve a desired result could be looking at fast tracking technological advances and incrementally improving on what you (have). However, any approach selected, there are good common principles that must be adhered to, if we are to achieve this.  In order for this model to be effective and efficient, it must be clear, it must be coherent and must allow for  an efficient approval process,” Ms. Dennis said.

She indicated that the Green Paper has outlined a set of reforms that would remove the underlying cause of long-running failures by giving Jamaica a new regulatory system, capable of the delivery of multiple goals, robust protection for sensitive or vulnerable sites, prompt approval for developments in non-sensitive sites, a more transparent and low-risk environment for developers and a more focused and efficient use of government resources.

Meanwhile, University of the West Indies Professor, Anthony Clayton, emphasised the need for a strong national planning agency to effectively address matters relating to the environment, and highlighted three key steps as recommended in the Green Paper.

These include: the establishment of  an Environmental Regulatory Authority and transferring  the National Environment and Planning Agency’s (NEPA)  responsibility for environmental monitoring and enforcement to the new Authority; developing a National Spatial Plan to include ‘no-build’ zones; giving  NEPA the primary responsibility for developing, maintaining and updating that plan; and giving NEPA the lead role in helping to solve environmental problems, via education, outreach, advisory assistance and training workshops.

The first public consultation was held in Mandeville and the final one has been scheduled to be held in Kingston on Wednesday, October 24.