Among the fanfare of the boundary demarcation ceremony in Troy, Trelawny on Wednesday was the dissenting voice of Tamar Case of the South Trelawny Environmental Agency (STEA).
Case was adamant that the boundaries that the government has established for the Cockpit Country have left out vital areas, critical to the ecological and hydrology of different sections of the country.
According to Case, who grew up and lives in Albert Town, Trelawny, while Prime Minister Andrew Holness and his Jamaica Labour Party government have done the most to protect the region, the now-established boundaries will wipe out the progress that was made.
“Yes Prime Minister Holness has come closest to protecting us but it is like the cow that gives the bucket of milk and then kicks it over,” said Case.
“There is no way, areas, where we stand from in Albert Town and looking over to St Ann and places like Sawyers and Ulcer Spring and all those areas that they said, are supposed to be mined, there is no way you can call that anything else but Cockpit Country," said Case
“So, therefore, it is weird to leave those places out of the boundary and then hear that they are going to be mined,” Case said.
The Cockpit Country is the largest forest in Jamaica with diverse plants and animals, many of which are endemic to the region, while the water generated from the significant rainfall in the area filters quickly to underground streams and rivers that lead to other sections of the island.
Different administrations over approximately 20 years have been at loggerheads with stakeholders about the boundaries for the Cockpit Country, with some using buildings and structures as markers, while others used the ring road that the British formed around the area, to enclosed runaway slaves or Maroons.
However, at the function on Wednesday, Holness said the government could not continue to delay because of discussions and since the majority of the stakeholders involved have agreed to protect that area that will be designated forest, the boundaries were assigned.
Among the concerns that the STEA has is the effects that the mining will have on the water supply, as according to Case, the residual red mud in other areas of the country that has been mined out shows the damage that bauxite mining does.
She said, “When you look and see that Cockpit Country provides basically, approximately 40 percent of water for sections of Jamaica, it is weird that you would be thinking of mining in such a place.
“Places like Quashie River that runs out of Freeman’s Hall and ends up in Stewart Town, those places will be destabilised and I am sure it is going to impact the water,” she said.
The government has signed a contract with Noranda Bauxite Partners, with mining in Trelawny set to begin in September, despite protests and challenges by a number of environmental stakeholders.