Following criticism of last week’s fire at Negril Great Morass, the National Environment and Planning Agency (NEPA) has revealed that cost and staffing issues have stalled the rehydration project. ecologically sensitive wetlands.
the gleaner had released on Monday that the Integrated Water, Land and Ecosystem Management in Small Island Developing States of the Caribbean (IWEco) program had yet to be implemented years after the award of 3.1 million US dollars under the imprimatur of the United Nations Environment Programme.
Much of the funds have been spent although the essential elements of the actual project have not been activated.
But NEPA chief executive Peter Knight insisted on Thursday that IWEco had not been scrapped.
“The project is not dead. The project is ongoing. There is a pause because of some issues that we need to resolve,” Knight said at a mid-afternoon press conference.
The CEO said the initiative – which was conceptualized in 2013, with work starting six years later – had run into some pitfalls.
“We had many other challenges with this project, one being the cost of 2013, not realistic in 2020 or 2022. We had difficulty in recruiting consultants to undertake the project activities that are necessary,” said Knight.
“We had difficulty obtaining services and, of course, we had difficulty in carrying out… the studies included in the project document.”
Knight said many interventions have been undertaken to cauterize the environmental issues affecting the swamp, including collaborations with the Fisheries Division of the Negril Green Island Local Planning Authority, NGOs, the Jamaica Hotel and Tourist Association, the chamber of commerce and municipal officials.
“The fires in Negril Morass are a historic challenge. The fires present environmental and public health challenges,” he said, adding that NEPA records show there have been eight major fires since 2008.
Knight accused developers, farmers and squatters of encroaching on the swamp to build structures without approval, “aggravating already difficult conditions”.
But the Natural Resources Conservation Authority, Town and Country Planning Authority and NEPA, he said, decided not to support any encroachment on wetlands and turned down development proposals that might have negative environmental impacts.