JIS News

The National Environment and Planning Agency (NEPA) hosted a stakeholders’ workshop, at the Black River Parish Library, St. Elizabeth, on Wednesday (October 21).
The workshop was held in collaboration with the National Irrigation Commission (NIC), with participation from stakeholders from communities in the Black River Basin. According to NEPA representative, Joy Allen, it was used to garner stakeholders input in developing and implementing a monitoring and training programme for Black River.
She said that NEPA has recognised the importance of garnering participation of stakeholders, at the community level, in looking at the natural resources of the Black River Basin area.
“We are convinced that we will get the support of all the communities, and it is really a collaborative approach involving NEPA, the implementing agencies and the communities, because we fully recognise that without the support of the communities, we will not be able to achieve our long term goal of making the island a place where we can all live and enjoy its natural resources,” she said.
Acting Chief Executive Officer (CEO) at NEPA, Peter Knight, in a message read on his behalf by Ms. Allen, said that the Agency recognised the Black River area as a great natural resource, lying within a dynamic wetland of international importance.
He said that pollution is one of the major challenges plaguing the area, and that the recent Black River fish kill is one such reminder.
“The fish kill of September first is a sore reminder of how pollution impacts negatively on the eco-systems, as the economic survival of many fisherfolk and communities was disrupted,” he pointed out.
He said that following the fish kill and the late notification that NEPA subsequently received about the incident, steps have been taken to equip the Agency to respond to environmental issues relating to Black River more promptly.
“I have instructed my team to ensure that NEPA is equipped with eyes and ears on the ground, to ensure that we are abreast of any environmental issue relating to Black River and its environs. From every negative event can come some positive resolution, hence (following) this recent fish kill, NEPA has put in place two initiatives,” he said.
The first initiative involved the formation of the Black River Basin Water Monitoring Programme and Emergency Warning System. NEPA, and stakeholders and sister agencies and community members, will increase the monitoring of the water quality of the Black River.
“NEPA seeks to partner with our stakeholders to more quickly respond to any emergency in the Black River Basin, as such posters and leaflets with contact numbers for NEPA have been disseminated to members of the community,” he said.
The second initiative is to seek to improve NEPA’s communications within the communities in the Black River Basin, by creating partnerships in protecting the environment, through meeting with community members and other stakeholders.
Chairman of the NIC, Oliver Nembhard, assured the residents, who have lodged numerous complainants about the state of the basin following the fish kill, that NEPA and the NIC will be closely monitoring the area.
“We have formed an alliance with NEPA and NIC, and I can assure that steps are being put in place, under some strong guidance from both Ministers that are responsible for the agencies, that this must never happen again”, he said.

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