As part of efforts to protect and preserve the country’s coastal and marine biodiversity, the National Environment and Planning Agency (NEPA) has embarked on a sustained programme to better manage these resources. This was stated by Minister of Water, Land, Environment and Climate Change, Hon. Robert Pickersgill, in a message read by Permanent Secretary in the Ministry, Genefa Hibbert, at NEPA’s Open Day function, held at its Head Office, in Kingston, Tuesday May 22.
The Minister said this new approach includes: routine monitoring of coral reefs; revision of existing coastal policies; and actions and plans, as well as specific interventions to reverse the effects of climate change at risk-prone communities across the island. “Through these programmes, it is anticipated that over the long-term, there will be increased recovery of our valued coastal ecosystems for this generation and future generations,” he said.
The Minister further noted that protecting the nation’s biodiversity was critical, particularly for many coastal communities, as these ecosystems provide several critical ecological functions on which the livelihood of humans is dependent, including coastal protection, recreation, and source of food as well as economic and social development.
“There is, however, a very clear and present danger for a severe reduction of the goods and services that these ecosystems provide that will be costly to Jamaica, if we do not take steps to arrest the deleterious trends from unplanned developments, nutrient run-off, sediment run-off, solid waste pollution, overfishing, and the effects of climate change,” he said. He praised NEPA for embracing the opportunity to raise awareness about the issues related to Jamaica’s coastal and marine biodiversity, and to increase practical action to protect and conserve these resources.
The Open Day marked NEPA’s 11th anniversary, which was observed under the theme: ‘Planning, Protecting, Conserving…NEPA’s Journey Towards Vision 2030’. Vision 2030 is the country’s first long-term national development plan, which aims at enabling Jamaica to achieve developed country status by 2030. It is based on a comprehensive vision: “Jamaica, the place of choice to live, work, raise families and do business.”
The event also featured exhibits from NEPA, which highlighted core areas of the agency’s business, as well as other exhibits by the National Health Fund and the Planning Institute of Jamaica (PIOJ), among others. The Open Day was also held in observance of World Biodiversity Day. The United Nations proclaimed May 22 the International Day for Biological Diversity, to increase understanding and awareness of biodiversity issues. This year’s theme is: ‘Marine Biodiversity.’ NEPA was formed in 2001 by the amalgamation of three entities – the Natural Resources Conservation Authority (NRCA), Town Planning Department, and the Land Development and Utilisation Commission (LDUC).
The thinking behind the merger was to have all environment and planning issues managed by a single agency to ensure that all critical matters are dealt with in a holistic way, and to more efficiently and cost-effectively apply policies and management systems to meet environmental and development needs.