The Caribbean Coastal Area Management Foundation (C-CAM) has announced that the Conservation Strategy Fund (CSF) has started work on a cost-effectiveness comparison of the proposed construction of a transshipment port at the Goat Islands in the Portland Bight Protected Area.
“The proposal by China Harbour Engineering Company to develop a port in this area is very controversial; seemingly pitting environmentalists against economic development,” said Ingrid Parchment, Executive Director of C-CAM, the main environmental NGO working in the Portland Bight Protected Area.
She explained that C-CAM, "concerned that there has been a lot of discussion on this issue, but very few facts have been presented," had decided to secure the services of CSF "to carry out an independent study."
CSF is described in the C-CAM statement as an internationally recognised organisation that has worked on similar large infrastructure projects around the world.
“They will compare the economic and environmental costs of the development at Goat Islands with two other sites. This should place the debate on a more rational footing,” Parchment said.
John Reid, Chief Executive Officer of CSF, stressed the importance of having the work done: “We recognise that Jamaica’s economy is in a very critical state and new investments are urgently needed. That makes it even more important that Jamaica should not make any mistakes as it pursues major developments, such as the proposed port."
Concerning the global importance of the biodiversity of the Portland Bight Protected Area, Reid said most people recognised this.
"What they want to know is whether any sacrifices will be necessary or worth it. Our job is to provide the best available data so that Jamaica can make an informed decision about this development."
He said hhis company had We done similar work elsewhere, "including helping the Government of Panama to choose the best option for widening the canal."
The CSF study — funding for which C-CAM revealed is being provided by the Critical Ecosystems Partnership Fund — will be completed by September 2014. It will include assessment of the three potential sites for the port and hub, comparison of the differences in costs, modeling of the impacts, valuation of the ecological costs and consultations with stakeholders.
Ever since the Government of Jamaica announced that China Harbour Engineering Company had expressed an interest in developing a port at Goat Islands, environmentalists have been voicing strong objections to the choice, citing the dangers it posed to the natural assets found in this section of the Portland Bight Protected Area.
According to Parchment, CSF’s work will bring a new perspective to the highly controversial debate.
“This is not about iguanas versus development... It is about sustainability, survival and the legacy we want to leave for our children," she asserted.