Denuding the dunes

The Palisadoes promontory forms a semi-circular protection of the Kingston Harbour in Jamaica and is in itself of significant historical, ecological and cultural value.  A Government scheme to convert this strip of land from promontory to promenade attracted the attention and ire of a civil society organisation, the Jamaica Environment Trust.  The aim of this organisation is to protect and conserve Jamaica’s natural environment, to ensure that environmental issues are properly considered in development planning and that there is proper public consultation.  Recently in the case of The Jamaica Environment Trust v. The National Resources Conservation Authority & The National Environment & Planning Agency (Claim No. HCV5674/2010)(October 13, 2011), the Supreme Court of Jamaica upheld the Trust’s complaint that the statutory agencies with the administrative responsibility for approving the scheme had breached the legal standards for public consultation and the legitimate expectation that all relevant environmental information would be disclosed to the public before approval is given.

The Claimants also complained that the Defendant had failed to perform their statutory duty of requiring an environmental permit for the clearing of the sand dunes and vegetation on the Palisadoes Beach.  They failed in this claim because the Court held that sufficient consideration had previously being given to this issue under another statutory regime.

The Case demonstrates the growing consciousness and activism of civil society in relation to the protection of the environment.  It points the way to the taking of pre-emptive action to prevent the type of degradation and damage which were inflicted in the Niger Delta Region of Nigeria noted above.  This is of special importance in Jamaica where the new Constitutional Charter of Fundamental Rights and Freedoms guarantee “the right to enjoy a healthy and productive environment free from the threat of injury or damage from environmental abuse and degradation of the ecological heritage”.  It is also of significance in the wider Caribbean where island States and territories are particularly vulnerable where environmental neglect and degradation aggravate natural disasters.

LLOYD G. BARNETT

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