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  • A manual, which sets out guidelines for improving hillside development practices in Jamaica, was launched on July 24, by Minister of Science, Technology, Energy and Mining, Hon. Phillip Paulwell.
  • The Hillside Development Manual also aims to minimise the risks associated with hillside development, including landslides, debris floods and erosion.
  • He noted that it not only emphasises the importance of sustainable development, but provides guidance that if followed it will prevent loss of valuable property and lives.

A manual, which sets out guidelines for improving hillside development practices in Jamaica, was launched on July 24, by Minister of Science, Technology, Energy and Mining, Hon. Phillip Paulwell.

The Hillside Development Manual also aims to minimise the risks associated with hillside development, including landslides, debris floods and erosion that destroy the natural and aesthetic quality of the environment.

Speaking at the launch, held at the Jamaica Pegasus Hotel in New Kingston, Mr. Paulwell said the manual is of great significance.

He noted that it not only emphasises the importance of sustainable development, but provides guidance that if followed, will not only preserve the beauty of the natural environment, but will also prevent loss of valuable property and lives.

“I want to insist that this document does not fall victim to the syndrome of just being another report, or at worst, to be condemned to file 13,” the Minister urged.

Mr. Paulwell further noted that as the nation contemplates the future of the bauxite/alumina industry, the manual will inform discussions and help to guide actions going forward.

He said an important consideration is that not enough thought is given to where dwellings and major housing developments are often located, resulting in considerable damage to the country’s natural environment.

Mr. Paulwell informed that apart from environmental hazards and risks to life and property, human settlements can have the effect of sterilizing mineral deposits.

“Simply put, unplanned and arbitrary settlements may render even rich mineral deposits from being mined, because the cost and dislocation factors would make such activity uneconomical,” he explained.

He noted that currently, some 700 million tonnes of bauxite are under threat of sterilisation and it has been estimated that approximately 300 million tonnes of that may never be mined.

“With up to 60 per cent of bauxite lands now in private ownership, thought must be given to minerals protection and other land use strategies,” he said, adding that what is true of the bauxite deposit may be the case for other valuable minerals, “which going forward may be of great value.”

The Minister emphasised that the manual must be recommended reading for all stakeholders involved in the process of sustainable development.

Commissioner of the Mines and Geology Division of the Ministry, Clinton Thompson, said the document is quite necessary and will provide a template for development throughout the island.

He noted that because developers are “running out of land on the popular plains,” there is greater focus on the development of the country’s hillsides that surround major urban centres, particularly Kingston and St. Andrew, Montego Bay, Ocho Rios and Portland.

“Due to the preference in the development of these naturally scenic areas, what we find is that there are a lot of unplanned developments taking place on these hillsides,” he said.

Mr. Thompson pointed out that one of the major challenges that these unplanned developments pose is a destructive effect, not only on the locale itself, but also on surrounding areas.

“We find that when we have climatic changes there are significant mudflows down to the communities that are surrounding these areas,” he explained. “We want landowners to understand that it is not just about the development of your particular land, but the impact this might have on neighbouring communities – persons beside and below you,” he added.

Director of Applications Management Division, National Environment and Planning Agency (NEPA), Ainsley Henry, said it is anticipated that through increased use of the manual, there will be enhanced public safety through improved planning, engineering and design of uphill development projects.

He also noted that the provision of clear guidelines as to what can and will be allowed, will bring more order to the development process and this will strengthen the resilience of the built environment.

Meanwhile, Director of Hazard Mitigation in the Ministry of Local Government and Community Development, Joan Sampson, said the Ministry is committed to partnering with all stakeholders for the promulgation of the manual.

“We also pledge the commitment and support of the local authorities in ensuring that the manual is used in the development approval process, to ensure that we do have sustainable and orderly development,” she said.

The manual was published by the Mines and Geology Division, in partnership with the Ministry of Local Government and Community Development, NEPA, and the Office of Disaster Preparedness and Emergency Management (ODPEM).

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