Minister of Water, Land, Environment and Climate Change, Hon. Robert Pickersgill, is hoping that the introduction of ultra low sulphur diesel to the local market will assist in reducing the pollution of the atmosphere by motor vehicles that continue to belch black smoke from their tail pipes.
The low-sulphur diesel, which was launched in Jamaica this week, is being presented as a cleaner option to regular diesel, and is said to be better for the environment and the vehicles.
Addressing a post Sectoral Debate press conference at the National Environment and Planning Agency (NEPA) on June 27, Minister Pickersgill pointed out that the emission of black smoke from vehicles is an offence under the Road Traffic Act.
There have been complaints from the public regarding the emissions, with the Jamaica Urban Transit Company (JUTC) buses identified as among the worst offenders. Minister Pickersgill said that while the offence is not confined to the state-owned vehicles, “the Government is supposed to set an example especially when it is clear that it is an offence and contributes to emissions that are not welcome.”
Chief Executive Officer, Peter Knight, noted that in response to public grouses, his agency wrote to the Ministry of Transport, Works and Housing, which has responsibility for motor vehicle emissions.
The Transport Ministry has since asked for NEPA’s assistance to fix the issue, and Mr. Knight said that the matter will be addressed through the agency’s Air Quality Management Committee.
He noted however, that in order to effectively address the issue, the necessary legal framework must be in place, and the required equipment provided to test vehicles.
“They have to get the amendment to the Road Traffic Act done, because what you really want to see done is that when you go to renew a certificate of fitness then the tail pipe check is also done so that the car can be certified that it is meeting the standards,” he said.
Minister Pickersgill, who has oversight responsibility for NEPA, informed during his Sectoral Debate presentation on June 26, that over the last financial year, the agency has developed a national air quality monitoring network and strengthened the air quality management programme.
He explained that as part of the initiative, two new air quality monitoring sites have been established in Washington Gardens, Kingston and Waterford in Portmore, to bring the total number of stations in the Kingston Metropolitan Area (KMA) to five.
Minister Pickersgill also informed that this year, NEPA has received a budget of $9.5 million, up from $6.3 million in 2012/13, to assist in the strengthening of the National Air Quality Programme.
“These funds will support the purchase of new air quality monitoring equipment and so increase the country’s capacity in air quality monitoring. The funds will also allow NEPA to expand the programme into Montego Bay, Spanish Town, May Pen and Mandeville,” he said.
CONTACT: ANDREA BRAHAM