JIS News

The Manchester Parish Council is welcoming the move by Government to strengthen the country’s system of environmental planning and regulation, through the establishment of an Environmental Regulatory Authority (ERA).

Spatial/Physical Planner at the Council, Ryan Wallace, told JIS that if the ERA is implemented then it should have powers to be able to make arrests so as to enforce the regulations.

“I think the ERA is a good proposal. I hope it can be implemented and if it can hold people accountable and arrest them, in terms of enforcement, then we can have a proper sustainable approach to development, which can help to boost economic development,” he said.

He was speaking to JIS News at public forum on Friday (Oct. 19) at the Mandeville Parish Church Hall in Manchester, to discuss the ERA Green Paper.

Government is seeking to set up body, which will effectively address environmental, social and economical issues that will contribute to sustainable development and national growth.

The Green Paper outlines a set of reforms that will remove a number of problems associated with the current arrangements for the planning and the management of the environment in Jamaica.

The proposal is for the upgrading of the National Environment and Planning Agency (NEPA) into a national planning agency with strong planning and advisory roles.

NEPA would also have a significantly strengthened role in assisting private and public sector organisations to solve their environmental problems.

University of the West Indies Professor, AnthonyClayton, who is guiding the development of the Green Paper, explained that if NEPA takes on these tasks, then a separate entity would be needed to assume the role of “tough cops.”

“They are the people, who will come and prosecute you if you break the law, so a large part of the suggestion is in fact, that we need to give NEPA additional powers, but we also need to take away the power to police and give that to a separate agency and this is based on the best principles of planning and regulations,” he stated.

Professor Clayton said NEPA would also be responsible for planning and keeping up- to-date, a national spatial plan. He said the plan will establish clear priorities and identify areas in which particular types of land use would be encouraged and others prohibited, and guide the development of transport routes, residential accommodation, and industrial development.

Resident of Mandeville, Valerie Dickson, said the discussion on the proposed reforms is timely and relevant to the needs of Jamaica. “Whether we like it or not, our environment is in jeopardy and many Jamaicans are not even slightly aware of the problems we face,” she said during an interview with JIS News.

“So, if we don’t start to try and fix our problems now, what are we going to leave to future generation?” she questioned.

Principal of Knox Community College, Errol C. Miller, who brought senior students to the session, said the presentation was excellent.

“We look forward for another occasion so that we can get the feedback. The fact that we were given the (opportunity to make an) input, we have taken advantage of that, and we hope to see that this thing measures up to the expectations that it ought to be,” he said. 

He stated that a majority of young people are environmentally aware and know exactly “where they would like to see Jamaica in another 10, 20, 30 years.”

Scores of students and representatives of government agencies attended the public forum. Participants were asked to fill out a feedback form and state their concerns about Jamaica’s system of planning and regulations as well as give their recommendations for changes to the current process.

Another consultation will be held on Wednesday (Oct.  24), at the Girl Guides Association headquarters on Waterloo Road, St. Andrew.