Tread care­fully on Cock­pit Coun­try

Jamaica Gleaner - - OPINION - THE ED­I­TOR, Madam:

I AM writ­ing in re­sponse to the Gleaner ar­ti­cle ‘Govern­ment eyes Cock­pit Coun­try for tourism’, pub­lished on Oc­to­ber 15, 2020.

With min­ing in the Cock­pit Coun­try still be­ing on the books as a ma­jor en­vi­ron­men­tal is­sue, I find it quite dis­con­cert­ing that we would want to add it to our suite of tourism of­fer­ings, and, no less, in re­sponse to the fall­out of the tourism sec­tor due to COVID-19. Peo­ple liv­ing in Cock­pit Coun­try com­mu­ni­ties and en­vi­ron­men­tal ad­vo­cates are still com­ing to terms with the fact that min­ing is be­ing al­lowed in the Cock­pit Coun­try, ir­re­spec­tive of what­ever bound­aries ex­ist around the pro­tected area and de­spite our very vo­cal dis­ap­proval.

As the most bio­di­verse re­gion in the coun­try, host­ing over 1,500 of our en­demic flora and fauna, and an area that ac­counts for nearly 60 per cent of our water sources and is still on the books for min­ing, we have to tread very care­fully with this idea of tourism (at any or­gan­ised scale) in the area. We must also be mind­ful that adding ‘sus­tain­able’ be­fore a word does not au­to­mat­i­cally as­cribe pro­tec­tion ben­e­fits. We are duty-bound to cen­tre the com­mu­ni­ties i n the Cock­pit Coun­try in this con­ver­sa­tion at this stage of ideation and through any de­vel­op­ments re­gard­ing their land. I don’t be­lieve it is the place of the South­ern Trelawny En­vi­ron­men­tal Agency to wel­come or re­ject the idea but for the many es­tab­lished com­mu­ni­ties, in­clud­ing the Ma­roon set­tle­ments, to de­ter­mine de jure whether this move aligns with their cul­tural ideals and con­nec­tions to their land. Ja­maica does not have a rich his­tory of in­clu­sion as it re­lates to land use de­ter­mi­na­tion, and we need to change that. Now is as good a time as any other to ask our­selves, do the Cock­pit Coun­try com­mu­ni­ties want this kind of large-scale in­flux of tourists? How will this move ben­e­fit them eco­nom­i­cally be­yond tips from the tourists?

In re­sponse to re­duced tourism sec­tor rev­enues, has the Govern­ment given con­sid­er­a­tion to re­duc­ing travel costs and giv­ing other ben­e­fits to re­gional trav­ellers? While global travel is still ex­pe­ri­enc­ing fall­out from COVID-19, CARI­COM gov­ern­ments have a dis­tinct op­por­tu­nity to reimag­ine our re­la­tion­ships and es­tab­lish bet­ter travel re­la­tions within the Caribbean. Some very lowhang­ing fruit are re­duced taxes for in­ter-re­gional trav­ellers and of­fer­ing lo­cal rates to CARI­COM na­tion­als, if that is not al­ready prac­tised. Make trav­el­ling within the Caribbean more at­trac­tive.

We will be watch­ing this de­vel­op­ment very closely as the Govern­ment con­tin­ues to look to­wards the Cock­pit Coun­try for a ‘sus­tain­able tourism prod­uct’. MARIO CHRISTIE Direc­tor, Pol­icy and Re­search Ja­maica Cli­mate Change Youth Coun­cil

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Jamaica

© PressReader. All rights reserved.