Trust the People Every Time
We should be grateful to the Gleaner for last week's story on tourism development. Under the headline Too many rooms! Hotel growth pressuring infrastructure it painted a frightening picture of what I call berserker development.
The story was frightening, because it disclosed that what I had suspected was true many of those who are supposedly responsible for guiding and regulating development don't understand what they are doing, or, if they do, are not doing what they should be doing.
Winsome Townsend, director of strategic planning at NEPA, said while the agency stuck to the guidelines, it did not have the legal authority to stop development if the Parish Council permits it.
I have no idea where Miss Townsend got this idea. The local planning authority is and has always been subordinate to the national planning authority. The National Environmental and Planning Agency, NEPA which combines the Natural Resources Conservation Authority and the Town Planning Department has had for a very long time the authority to stop certain kinds of development if they chose to do so.
Thirty years ago when I was chairman of the NRCA we had much less legal authority than the NEPA/NRCA now possesses.
The NRCA can now issue Stop Orders for any development and require Environmental Impact Assessment Reports on a wide range of developments which includes the building of hotels. In the case of the old NRCA, we could stop any kind of development on any beach in Jamaica simply by withholding a licence. This meant we could prohibit wharves, dredging, land reclamation and use of the beaches for any purpose.
The NRCA was an amalgamation of the Beach Control Authority, the Wildlife Protection Authority, the Watersheds Protection Authority which meant we had other recourses should we have needed to fall back on them. We effectively stopped the mining of peat at Negril threatening to invoke the Watersheds Protection Law, among other things, but we campaigned against it so effectively that we did not need to invoke any sanctions.
It seems to me that the new NEPA, a super agency apparently suggested by the World Bank, has powers of which its members must be unaware. But even if it did not have the powers I think it has, the NRCA and the Town Planning Authority should have a great deal of moral weight which could be used to dissuade the more reckless of our development agencies.
The UDC managed in the 1960s to gain Mr Seaga's approval to be a local planning authority in areas over which it had sway, but this still did not allow them to do what they liked, and when we pressured them to install sewerage works to protect Negril's beaches, they at least pretended to obey until the government changed in 1980.
What they did after that can now be seen in the depleted, muddy beaches of Negril, acres of which have been lost because of sewerage and human interference with the seafloor.
The corals are dead, as well.
Part of the problem with Jamaican planning and development is that the people with power are these days, Jamaicans in name only. What they know of Jamaica is the immediate area round their houses and offices and the roads to the airports. But their hearts, minds and wallets are in Cayman, Miami and Lichtenstein.
This is why Jamaican food finds such a hard time getting onto the international menu, because so many Jamaican 'ginnigogs' either don't know the food or think it beneath them.
CARRYING CAPACITYOne of our major problems in Jamaica is carrying capacity. One of the Gleaner's guests at its editor's forum environmental engineer Chris Burgess said the concept of carrying capacity was often misunderstood in Jamaica.
"Carrying capacity is ill defined and there is no study in this country that can come forward and say that our way of determining carrying capacity is absolutely the best way or is well respected or is the way," He added: "I think that the idea that Runaway Bay can only facilitate safely 2000 (hotel room) is crazy and I believe the sustainable number is quite likely higher."With all due respect to Mr Burgess there are several ways in which carrying capacity can be measured. For instance, the availability of water is clearly a limitation on any development. If Runaway Bay can support 2,000 rooms, as Mr Burgess says, there must be a source for at least eight million gallons of water per day. The Bahia Principe at Mammee Bay, planned to have 2,000 rooms in one place, would require a similar volume of water. Where is it to be found?
All along the North Coast the people who actually live there are in dire straits because they cannot get enough water.
In Duncans, for which my father helped secure the Dornock water supply (from the Rio Bueno) about 80 years ago, there are water problems today because of overdevelopment. At Silver Sands resort there are water shortages and if the crazy new Harmony Cove development is ever built Duncans will probably have to import water from somewhere.
Already, there is severe pressure on the North Coast water supplies from cruise ships and hotels. Some people fool themselves that cruise ships come to Jamaica for in-bond shopping and other gated attractions. I have the feeling they come mainly for fairly cheap water, which is not easily available either in Florida or in the rest of the Caribbean.
Yet the National Water Authority has in its wisdom privatised the water supplies of Ocho Rios and the Runaway Bay/Discovery Bay areas, knowing that there is a huge sellers market for water for cruise ships, hotels and golf courses. And with the NWA's religious principles apparently preventing it from making money, I believe that the prime minister should immediately take back into public ownership these water supplies.
The private owners have not and will never be responsible for the maintenance of the watersheds. It is our sweat and tears which maintain them. And since that is so, it seems to me only fair that when water is to be distributed the people of Jamaica, whose forefathers died for this land, should be entitled to first dibs.
TEARING DOWN JAMAICAThe Prime Minister, Portia Simpson, is, in my view, in danger of being so surrounded by 'apparatchiks' from the previous regime that she will not be able to implement her own policies for some time to come.
In the meantime, the people of Jamaica have a pretty good idea of what Portia wants; they simply want to hear her summon them to action.
For a start, in her pre-election speeches, Portia made it clear that her version of development was based on people and not on concrete.
She spoke about mobilising volunteer effort and in helping people take charge of their own destinies. The berserker development now afoot in tourism is diametrically opposed to Portia's vision.
The same is true of developments in the bauxite industry. Jamaica is approximately half bauxite and half limestone with a smattering of volcanic and other rocks to sweeten the geological pie. If the Bauxite Institute and Marc Rich have their way we will be tearing down the entire country to get at bauxite an enterprise which has already disfigured the green face of Jamaica. At Marlborough in Manchester, birthplace of Norman Manley, the bauxite companies have created a moonscape out of what should be a tranquil national park.
The government of Mr Patterson approved plans to let these predators loose in the Cockpit Country, without any regard for the incredible beauty of that Land of Look Behind or the biological treasures contained therein.
We can't eat bauxite and what we get from it doesn't feed anyone. When it is gone it is gone, and when it is gone it will leave huge craters instead of land on which we could grow food and show off the beauty of our country to ourselves and our visitors for millennia to come.
The current berserker development is designed for one thing only to make sure that the coupon clippers who own the Jamaican debt will be repaid. It will contribute nothing to the development of our people and will ravage the landscape and destroy and foreclose all sorts of prospects for real, continuing and sustainable development.
In Anguilla, a tiny island about the size of Kingston Harbour, the government has decided to put a moratorium on development. The reason is that the people fear that Anguilla will become like Jamaica, an island completely surrounded by hotels, in which the locals are there only on sufferance and to provide cheap labour.
The UDC's programme of beach stealing must be stopped in the public interest, or else there will soon be war between the people and the tourism industry.
We need to devise, with the wisdom of the ordinary people, a plan to make Jamaica at least as attractive a place for its own citizens as it is for visitors. We need to decide what we mean by development.
Development cannot mean the continue exploitation of the people for the benefit of foreigners. Bauxite mining needs to be reined in before it destroys our country.
There is an island called Nauru in the South Pacific which was formed almost entirely out of the excrement of seabirds guano a complete fertiliser, mined profitably for more than a 100 years. The problem with once beautiful Nauru is that it has almost vanished.
Most of Nauru has been exported to fertilise gardens in Europe and America and the rest will soon be consumed by the rising tide which lifts all globally warmed economic jackasses.
We have seen some of the attempts of ignoramuses to develop Jamaica. The destruction of Long Mountain is a standing reproach to our planners and politicians. We saved Hope Gardens, but it has been placed in the hands of people who didn't give a damn about it when it was menaced by Messrs Cartade and Patterson.
And of course, a few years ago we frightened off the bozos who wanted to build a facility in Jamaica to burn PCBs imported from the US. By burning their toxic waste, we would earn lots of money so said the wise men of the Bauxite Institute that is, if any of us was alive and healthy enough to have survived this crazy experiment.
Over the last few weeks in the Ivory Coast, in West Africa, two senior French officials of a Dutch-based commodities company have been arrested and their passports confiscated in connection with a toxic waste scandal. More than 44,000 people have sought assistance at hospitals and clinics since the toxic waste was dumped from a Panamanian ship last month. Seven people have died but autopsies have not determined the cause of death.
What happened? Somebody had the bright idea that the Ivory Coast could earn some foreign exchange by accepting toxic waste from abroad for dumping. They were no doubt following the infamous reasoning of Mr Lawrence Summers, who, while a vice-president of the World Bank attempted to change the bank's thinking on the environment.
According to Summers, since the costs of pollution depend on the foregone earnings from increased morbidity and mortality.health impairing pollution should be done in the country with the lowest cost, which will be the country with the lowest wages. I think the economic logic behind dumping a load of toxic waste in the lowest wage country is impeccable and we should face up to that.
I've always thought those under-populated countries in Africa are vastly nuder-polluted; their air quality is probably vastly inefficiently low (sic) compared to Los Angeles or Mexico City. Only the lamentable facts that so much pollution is generated by non-tradable industries (transport, electrical generation) and that the unit transport costs of solid waste are so high prevent world welfare-enhancing trade in air pollution and waste.Our homegrown developers seem to think along the same lines as Dr Summers. After all, his last job was as President of Harvard where he behaved in a very Jamaican fashion; he couldn't get along with women or with black professors.
The demand for a clean environment for aesthetic and health reasons is likely to have very high income elasticity. The concern over an agent that causes a one in a million change in the odds of prostrate (sic) cancer is obviously going to be much higher in a country where people survive to get prostrate cancer than in a country where under five mortality is 200 per thousand.
The problem with the arguments against all of these proposals for more pollution in LDCs (intrinsic rights to certain goods, moral reasons, social concerns, lack of adequate markets, etc.) could be turned around and used more or less effectively against every Bank proposal for liberalisation.
I, being an undereducated yahoo, prefer Michael Manley's words, Trust the people every time. We need to find out what we really want our country to mean to us and what we want to represent to the world.
- Negril: Environmental Threats and Recommended Actions, from the Global Coral Reef Alliance
- Portland Bight Protected Area
- Negative Effects of Tourism on the the Ecology of Jamaica