Prime Minister Andrew Holness says the Cockpit Country is an environmental, cultural and historical asset which the Government of Jamaica values greatly.
The Prime Minister says the Government is sensitive to the environmental concerns about the Cockpit Country and is moving to ensure that it is protected.
Prime Minister Holness made the pronouncements on August 6 at the Denbigh Agricultural and Industrial food show in Clarendon.
“We agreed upon a boundary for the Cockpit Country, that boundary will be enshrined in law and within that boundary, there will be no mining and within that boundary as well certain agricultural practices will be banned such as slash and burn and the use of dangerous chemicals. It will be a regulated space to protect a water bank of Jamaica, to protect the forest that grows in the Cockpit Country and to generally protect that area as a national ecological park for Jamaica,” said Prime Minister Holness.
In that regard, the Prime Minister underscored that in seeking to protect the Cockpit Country the Government examined the unique geomorphological feature of the Cockpit, the forest and its biodiversity. The Government also took into consideration the hydrology of the area examined, the water that flows in and out of the area along with the sinkholes, caves and other areas through which water seeps underground to create the largest water bank for the island.
According to the Prime Minister, in addition to the environmental sensitivities around the Cockpit Country, the Government is fully cognizant of the historic and cultural value of the area.
“Now, there are areas around the Cockpit Country that are thought to be part of what is culturally considered the Cockpit Country. The Cockpit Country was where the Maroons lived and is where the British could not go, it is where the British were defeated in battle and had to see the Cockpit Country and walk around it, creating what is historically called a ring road around the Cockpit Country,” stated Prime Minister Holness.
In that regard, the Prime Minister emphasised that he hears the concerns about the preservation of those areas in and around the Cockpit Country. He also underscored that several forms of environmentally damaging practices will also be prohibited.
“I want it to be absolutely clear to the Jamaican citizen that this Government is the Government of the environment. When there was the prospect of a port being built on Goat Island, again another nationally sensitive project, we stopped it. When there was the prospect of using coal to do bauxite operation as in this country, it was this Government that stopped it. So, we are not the Government that will trade off economic benefit for environmental cost, that is not this Government. So yes, we hear the complaints, we hear all that is happening on social media, but I want to reassure the Jamaican people that this Government will be responsible with our environment because already we are seeing the effects of climate change,” stated Prime Minister Holness.
In the meantime, the Prime Minister said Jamaica is experiencing the effects of climate change, noting the change in concentration of rainfall from the north-eastern end to the north-western end of the island.
The Prime Minister encouraged farmers in the east to practice drip irrigation and cease slash and burn practices in watershed areas.
And, the Government is set to commence a National Tree Planting programme which will see one million trees being planted to help reverse the effects of global warming.