Legislation coming to safeguard Cockpit Country protected area

Parliamentary Secretary in the Office of the Prime Minister, Senator Robert Morgan, has said that once the Forestry Department has completed its 250-kilometre ground-truthing exercise, specific legislation will be promulgated to safeguard the Cockpit Country Protected Area boundary.

Making his contribution to the 2019/2020 State of the Nation Debate in the Senate last Friday (Feb 7), Morgan pointed out that the Forestry Department has completed approximately 63 per cent of the ground-truthing exercise. “After completion, specific legislation as advised by the attorney general will be promulgated to ensure that there is statutory protection of this important area for not only this generation but future generations,” Morgan noted.

He pointed out that more than 74,000 hectares of land will be protected under the Cockpit Country Protected Area. “That is seven per cent of Jamaica’s land mass,” he added. Senator Morgan said the proposed Cockpit Country Protected Area was declared in 2017 by Prime Minister Andrew Holness. “The consequence of this is that all mining and exploration licences have been regressed to the proposed protected area boundary,” he informed.

Senator Morgan pointed out that for more than two decades, governments, environmentalists and community members have grappled with how to define the Cockpit Country. He noted that throughout that time, numerous studies and consultations were done. Some of the studies include the 2005 Parris Lyew-Ayee, Jr report, the 2008 Professor Simon F Mitchell et al Report on Defining the Boundaries of the Cockpit Country, and the 2013 Professor Dale Webber/University of the West Indies Report.

Senator Robert Morgan

“No matter which boundary the Government defines, there are still persons who would say, we want to be in the boundary, but the decision on this boundary was based not on the opinions of the Government but on the scientific determination of the hydrology, geology and also cultural importance of the areas being covered,” the senator explained.

He said that while the Government is protecting the flora and fauna of the island, strides are also being made in the area of energy. Senator Morgan told the Senate that the 37-megawatt Paradise Park solar facility near Savanna-la-Mar in Westmoreland now delivers the cheapest electrical energy being produced in Jamaica. “I know, based on discussions taking place, there is more to come,” he said