Geologists to focus on Geoscience Legislation

President of the Geological Society of Jamaica (GSJ), Gavin Gunter, says that activities for Geosciences for Development Week 2010 will be largely focus on legislation.
Mr. Gunther says that the lack of a specific legislative and regulatory framework relating to the practice of geosciences in Jamaica is a major concern, because public safety, as it relates to both life and property, can be greatly impacted by the proper application of the knowledge of geosciences.
“(This) has shown itself to be relevant, time and time again, with perhaps the latest episode relating to the effects of the excessive rainfall during the passage of the weather system Nicole,” he pointed out.
November 15 to 19 has been declared Geosciences for Development Week by Governor General, His Excellency the Most Hon Sir Patrick Allen.
He made the announcement at a special ceremony at King’s House on Monday (November 8), explaining that the week will provide a real opportunity for Jamaicans to show appreciation for the abundant natural resources with which the country is blessed.
He said that during the week, the GSJ will work with the geo-scientific community, and the wider society, on better understanding and more responsible use of the country’s natural resources for the sustained and harmonious development of the country.
Mr. Gunter said the GSJ has begun consultations with key decision-makers and government agencies, such as the National Environment and Planning Agency (NEPA), to promote key areas of reform, which he hopes will ultimately result in the promulgation of laws and regulations to protect the interest of the public.
“At minimum, we seek to ensure that only persons qualified to do so will provide formal advice for developmental and other activities, as Jamaica embarks on her journey to attain first-world status by the year 2030,” he stated.
Mr. Gunter argued that in searching the laws of Jamaica on the Ministry of Justice’s website, he has seen only one instance in which the use of a geologist was specifically mandated by law on a public body. That instance related to a regulatory requirement for a geologist to be on the Advisory Council for Jamaica’s national parks. In other instances, it is simply implied that a trained and qualified geologist should be used.
The GSJ president said Jamaica has had a long and distinguished history in the practice of geology, having been the first place in the western hemisphere to have a geological survey conducted and a map produced.
He said Jamaica was also among the first places where key fossil groups, such as rudists, were identified in the New World. Rudist bivalves are an unusual type of clam that inhabited tropical waters and became extinct at the end of the Cretaceous Period (65 million years ago) along with the dinosaurs, he informed.
Mr. Gunter also disclosed that Jamaica will host the International Conference on Rudists in June 2011. The GSJ is co-organiser of the event, and Jamaica will play host to over 30 highly specialised palaeontologists.
“Jamaica has some of the best exposures in the western hemisphere, suitable for studying these organisms in the timeframe leading up to their extinction,” he said.
In 2011, the GSJ will observe the 50th anniversary of the University of the West Indies (UWI) Geology Department. To mark the event, the GSJ and the department plan to host a conference that will provide an opportunity to reunite persons who have been trained in the geological sciences at the UWI.

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