The opposition People’s National Party (PNP) has called on the government to immediately define the boundaries for the Cockpit Country – Jamaica’s rainforest of approximately 500 square miles.
One of Jamaica’s most preserved areas
In a statement on Monday, the party’s spokesperson on the environment, Sophia Frazer-Binns, said the Cockpit Country remains one of Jamaica’s most preserved areas with rare flora and fauna. She said it also has cultural significance as the place where Maroons found refuge during their fight for freedom.
“The use/exploitation of the Cockpit Country will affect our water supply and quality. The municipal and agricultural water supply for much of western and northern Jamaica is dependent on the input of groundwater from Cockpit Country sources. The Government therefore has a duty to protect the health of its people by protecting the Cockpit Country,” she said.
Fraser-Binns made the statement in the wake of reports of plans to conduct bauxite mining in the area.
“While in government, our administration undertook various studies which guided its decision. This included the study undertaken by the University of the West Indies. Relying on these studies we were able to agree to the boundaries of the Cockpit Country and at the time of leaving office we were close to its completion. Therefore, it’s surprising and curious, that after almost two years the current government is unable to publicly state the boundaries of the Cockpit Country,” she argued.
No reason for mining
She said that there is “absolutely no reason for mining to take place in the Cockpit Country as studies conducted showed Jamaica has approximately 50 years of bauxite to be mined in other areas if mining continues at the present rate.
“Therefore, there is no basis for a license to be issued for the mining of bauxite within the precincts or the inner boundary of the Cockpit Country”.
Environmental petition successful
Recently, environmentalist in Jamaica launched a petition calling on Prime Minister Andrew Holness to establish the boundary of the Cockpit Country, and put an end to mining in the protected area.
According to reports, the petition achieved the required number of 15,000 signatures within 40 days.
Protected national park
The petition called for Holness to “declare Cockpit Country a protected national park and put in place comprehensive measures to ensure its management and conservation for all Jamaicans, including future generations.”
This is the first petition to achieve 15,000 signatures since the launch of the Jamaica House Petition portal in July.
The Cockpit Country, located in the northern parish of Trelawny, has been the subject of controversy for years, with environmental groups accusing several administrations of Government of dragging their feet in protecting the area from mining.