Minister of Water, Land, Environment and Climate Change, Hon. Robert Pickersgill, is calling on society, especially corporate Jamaica, to play a greater role in protecting the environment.
He said that while the National Environment and Planning Agency (NEPA) bears principal responsibility, environmental stewardship is the corporate and individual imperative of all Jamaicans.
The Minister was speaking on May 6, at the national church service to mark NEPA’s 11th anniversary held at the St Luke’s Anglican Church, Slipe Road, Kingston.
He said that over the years, NEPA has made strides in discharging its responsibilities under the various statutes that guide its work, including the Town and Country Planning Act; Wildlife Protection Act, which addresses the protection of birds, endemic and endangered species; and the Beach Control Act.
He said that the agency has had much success in educating Jamaicans on environmental matters, noting that international donor partners and local groups have contributed to these initiatives, which have engaged schools, the judiciary, the police and the wider citizenry.
The agency, the Minister informed, has taken an adaptive management approach, as it seeks to ensure that new developments are as climate-proof as is feasible, while also striving to remain efficient, cutting-edge and relevant in the face of shrinking financial resources.
He said that as the government seeks to achieve greater balance between the need for development and the imperative of environmental protection, NEPA is undertaking a pilot project to include the valuation of natural resources into the of Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) process.
“Through cost/benefit analyses we will be able to make more informed decisions about development options,” he pointed out.
Minister Pickersgill said that even as the agency carries out its work, it is not without challenges. He noted that the planning framework for the country is imperfect and more work needs to be done to reduce urban blight and curtail urban sprawl.
“Urban renewal, within the context of a green economy, is critical as it would help to reduce greenhouse gas emission, thus contributing to the reduction of climate change impacts. This type of action, though, requires partnerships and co-operation at various levels of the society,” he stated.
Congratulating the agency on 11 years of service, Minister Pickersgill urged Jamaicans to support the work of the organisation and its vision for a Jamaica “where natural resources are used in a sustainable way and there is a broad understanding of environment, planning and development issues with extensive participation among citizens and a high level of compliance with relevant legislation’.
NEPA was formed in 2001 by the amalgamation of three entities; the Natural Resources Conservation Authority (NRCA), Town Planning Department, and the Land Development and Utilization Commission (LDUC).
The thinking behind the merger was to have all environment and planning issues managed by a single agency to ensure that all critical matters are dealt with in a holistic way, and to more efficiently and cost-effectively apply policies and management systems to meet environmental and development needs.