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[May 28/06 - Please refer to the Review Of The Environmental Impact Assessment - Bahia Principe done by Environmental Solutions Limited on the proposed Bahia Principe Hotel Resort Development, Pear Tree Bottom, St. Ann, Jamaica.]

PEAR TREE BOTTOM CONCERNS -  from 1993

 

From as early as 1992, St. Ann Environment Protection Association[1]  (STAEPA)  and other groups had begun to voice their concerns about the proposed development of the beautiful coastal area of Pear Tree Bottom in St. Ann. 

 

Below is the text of a document sent in 1993 by STAEPA to the Natural Resources Conservation Authority and the developers of the proposed Pear Tree Bay hotel project near Runaway Bay in St. Ann, expressing the concerns of STAEPA and local residents about the possible environmental and social impacts of the development.  These concerns were also presented at a public hearing for the project and a community meeting specially hosted by STAEPA and attended by Mr. David Bicknell of Tankweld Ltd., the developers, to discuss the project.[2]

 

Now in 2005, in preparing a submission to NEPA for the proposed Bahia Principe resort development, I find myself re-iterating all of the points made twelve years ago, which are just as relevant and even more so in the face of a significantly larger project than the earlier Tankweld project.  I decided to have this document transcribed for circulation and for submission to NEPA (again) as part of our feedback on the proposed Bahia Principe project.

 

Wendy A. Lee, 13 April 2005

 

PEAR TREE BOTTOM CONCERNS, 1993

 

Environmental Concerns

-         very special area and beautiful area, recommended for protection in JCDT’s plan for a system of parks and protected areas

-         forested hillside, sloping to freshwater marsh, mangroves, sandy bays interspersed with rocky shoreline; coral reefs “spectacular” – buttress formations; outstanding scenery

-         habitat for wide variety of birds, endangered Jamaican boa, sea turtle nesting beach

-         plans include a large, beachfront hotel and villas, although we have not been able to find out details

-         extensive coastal modifications already underway include construction of 5 large groynes, dredging the shallow back-reef area to provide swimming areas, and creation of artificial beaches with crushed marl

-         high intensity development will affect the entire nature of the area

-         the clearing of natural forest cover will lead to increased surface run-off, soil erosion, and siltation of the nearshore marine environment

-         deforestation associated with the construction of roads has already led to loss of wildlife habitat, particularly for birds and the endangered Jamaican boa

-         the negative effects of the development itself will be considerably greater unless specific steps are taken to mitigate these impacts.

-         the clearing of the seafloor from shore to the back-reef will destroy this shallow, protected environment; this area does not consist merely of coral rubble, but supports a variety of life, in particular the mollusks and other invertebrates

-         the construction of groynes and other alterations to the coastline have already proven a deterrent to nesting of the endangered hawksbill sea turtles for which this area is an important nesting site

-         bypass road is affecting the wetlands, as three culverts are not enough to ensure free flow and drainage is impeded (according to North Coast Highway Project scientists) which will affect health of wetlands

-         we question the relevance of the so-called Environmental Impact Assessment commissioned by TankWeld, which was carried out by Dr. Guy Harvey, a biologist on retainer to the company, before actual plans for development were finalized

-         we question the legality of the removal of the main road, which was done without proper notification to the public or opportunity for public review

-         we question the legality of construction of internal roads for the Council.  According to the Town and Country Planning (St. Ann Coast) Confirmed Development Order of 1963, “A person shall not … form any proposed road [in conjunction with development] … unless a scheme has been previously approved … by the local planning authority.

-         we are concerned about the capacity of the developers to effectively manage sewage and wastewater effluent as well as solid waste generated by development.

 

Social Impacts

-         on the north coast we are suffering from the effects of far too intensive development with inadequate infrastructure, implemented with little or no consultation with communities affected

-         we are concerned about the possible social impact of a large-scale, all-inclusive resort development at Pear Tree Bottom

-         local people are being and will be excluded from amenities which include access to the beach and river at Pear Tree Bottom, a popular and traditional recreation spot; this creates frustration and hostility towards developers and tourists

-         traveling public are denied views one of the most picturesque coastal areas on the entire island, and one of the few remaining places on north coast where construction has not obliterated a view of the sea; although economic values of these amenities are not easily quantified, they nevertheless exist.

-         fishermen are being displaced

-         the development will need large numbers of workers for whom there is no housing, vendors for whom there is no craft market or designated vending area

 

RECOMMENDATIONS

-         in general we would like to see an improvement in the process of implementing resort developments by inviting public participation in planning

-         priority should be given to both the long-term well-being of local people and environmental conservation

 

We hereby recommend that the developers:

-         protect significant areas of natural forest in a configuration designed to reduce the impact of increased run-off and siltation due to the development

-         protect and expand the mangroves on the site;

-         maintain existing wetlands;

-         maintain the beach as scenic natural coastline, with minimal alterations to shoreline;

-         provide public access to the shoreline and beach, as recommended by the St. Ann Parish Council;

-         replace existing coast road with public bicycle trail and footpaths;

-         put in a tertiary sewage treatment facility utilizing the wetlands (reed beds) to the west of the site, with alternative deep-water offshore outfall;

-         provide facilities for craft vendors in designated commercial area to the east;

-         provide information about the proposed development to the community and interest groups, and actively solicit public input to development plans.

NOTE:  STAEPA’s committee on Land Use and Natural Resource Management will be seeking further advice from experts on the possible impacts of the development, and ways to mitigate these impacts or even reverse the damage already done.

Additional comments and recommendations are welcome from anyone concerned.

Prepared by Wendy van Barneveld

St. Ann Environment Protection Association, 1993



[1] The earlier name of what is now Northern Jamaica Conservation Association (NJCA).

[2] Transcribed from the hard copy on 13 April 2005 by Chris Rhoads, Peace Corps Volunteer for NJCA.



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