Save Jamaica’s Cockpit Country

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Hon. Andrew Holness

Prime Minister of Jamaica

18 June 2019

Subject: The Cockpit Country Controversy

Dear Mr. Holness

As a Jamaican and someone who is very concerned about the destruction of natural habitats worldwide and the resulting negative impact on the environment and human lives, I know that Jamaica’s Cockpit Country is only a speck in the global mix of things, especially when its importance is measured in the context of so called development and progress.

Let me hasten to remind you that investors in Industrial development such as mining, have no interest in the country in which they are investing beyond making profits for their share holders.

They will make all the relevant promises to the government and people of the country to convince them of the benefits they will accrue from the proposed project/s, but we have seen too many times those promises turn out to be lies, they will offer assurances and guarantees of safety to the environment, too many times we have seen those guarantee fail and resulted in environmental disasters.

Diane McCaulay gave 5 indisputable reasons why ALL of the Cockpit Country should be protected at all cost, please carefully consider them.

5 Reasons To Save The Cockpit Country:

Cockpit Country is a rugged, forested area of west-central Jamaica, rich in plants, animals, water and history. It is home to about 70,000 people, including the Leeward Maroons of Jamaica. The wet limestone forest of Cockpit Country is Jamaica’s largest remaining natural forest and a refuge for rare native species. Plans to mine for bauxite and quarry for limestone threaten this important area, which has sparked a major campaign to ‘Save Cockpit Country’.

Here are five reasons to preserve Cockpit Country.

1. COCKPIT COUNTRY IS WATER

Cockpit Country supplies critical fresh water for Jamaica, estimated at 40% of the water needs of six western parishes, and 40% of all Jamaica’s underground water resources. This clean water is generated and accumulated by the forests of Cockpit Country. The water then soaks down into rivers, sinkholes, caves and the aquifer deep underground. A list of all the rivers, streams, upwellings, springs, ponds and glades that rise or flow out of Cockpit Country runs to almost 40, including the Great River, Martha Brae, YS River, Black River and Rio Bueno in the east (arising in Litchfield Mountain/Matheson’s Run).

2. COCKPIT COUNTRY IS PEOPLE

Extensive consultations with the communities of Cockpit Country in 2013 as part of a boundary study done by the University of the West Indies showed that the people of Cockpit Country wanted it declared a protected area, ecotourism site, national park and World Heritage Site. They were strongly opposed to bauxite mining and limestone quarrying in Cockpit Country.

3. COCKPIT COUNTRY IS HISTORY AND CULTURE

Cockpit Country is a vibrant cultural, historical and symbolic site. This is where the Maroons fought the British to a treaty in 1738/9 and Cockpit Country remains a symbol of resistance and triumph for all Jamaicans. The Leeward Maroons still live in Cockpit Country and their culture is an essential aspect of Jamaican heritage.

4. COCKPIT COUNTRY IS WILDLIFE

An extraordinary diversity of native plants and animals are found in Cockpit Country. Many are found in Jamaica and nowhere else in the world, and some are found only in Cockpit Country, so they are of global importance. New species are still being discovered and the potential value, such as the options for new drugs, have hardly been explored by scientists.

5. COCKPIT COUNTRY SUPPLIES LIFE-GIVING SERVICES FOR FREE The land, forests, plants and animals in Cockpit Country provide us with clean air to breathe, cooler temperatures, fresh water collected and stored, pollination and pest control for agriculture, medicinal plants and fertile soil in the valleys. The forests of Cockpit Country also help to buffer the impacts of climate change.

Article byDiana McCaulay for the Cockpit Country Stakeholders Group

Very cogently and sagaciously she encapsulated the quintessence of the Cockpit Country in those 5 points

I am sure that as a responsible Jamaican and the leader of our country, you would like to see the Cockpit Country protected.

The challenge we seem to be facing now is where do the boundaries begin and where do they end.

In November 2017, the Prime Minister of Jamaica announced that the official Cockpit Country Boundary had been decided. It enclosed an area of only about 67 percent of the area proposed by the CCSG for protection”. (CCSG)

Basic common sense should tell you and the members of your cabinet that no part, yes no part of the Cockpit Country should be sacrificed to commercial mining of any kind.

The Cockpit Country probably has the most valuable water sources on the island, six parishes depend on the Cockpit Country for the water they use, why would we want to put any part of it at risk?

Lack of clean potable water is one of the greatest challenges the world will face in the future, as a matter of fact is is already happening, most of the world’s rivers are contaminated, it is estimated that close to 45% of the worlds surface water is contaminated

HALF of all hospital beds in the developing world are filled with people sick from waterborne diseases. More people die of diarrhea from unsafe water and poor sanitation than from armed conflict.
Water is one of your most immediate needs in a survival situation. You won’t live long without it, especially in hot areas where you lose water rapidly through perspiration

According to the (CCSG)

Communities EXCLUDED from the ‘official’ boundary include: in the northeast – Stewart Town, Jackson Town, Alps, Sawyers, Belmont, Richmond Pen, Mahogany Hall, Barnstaple, Madras, Bryan Castle, Gibraltar, and Endeavour; in the south – Appleton, Balaclava, Maggotty, Thornton, White Hall, Ipswich, Ginger Hill, Jointwood, Mulgrave, Dry River, and Retirement; in the north and northwest – Cambridge, Mount Horeb, Plum Park, Catadupa, Kensington, Bandon, and Bunkers Hill.

This is a very large area to be excluded form the original proposal.

As the Prime Minister of the country, I am aware that you have to make tough decisions but in the case of the Cockpit Country, your decision should not be solely based on short term financial gain, you need to be aware of the long term impact your decision will have on the following:

  • The island’s most important water shed
  • The quality of the drinking water of the communities
  • The many rivers flowing into numerous communities
  • The life of the fish and other species in the rivers and streams
  • The people of the Cockpit Country
  • Agriculture
  • The air quality of the area
  • The pollutants which will be carried into the ocean
  • The poisoning of the soil
  • The rainforest which are like the lungs of the earth

Negative impact in the bulleted points are not coming from my over active imagination, those are more often than not unavoidable consequences of mining.

The manipulating of the boundaries to accommodate mining is not a solution but the heart of the problem.

It is like during the time when smoking was permitted on planes, the smoking area was directly in front of the non smoking area.

Listen to the voices of the Maroon people, they do not want mining in the Cockpit Country, the Cockpit Country is their legacy for their gallantry and resilience in the face of oppression and slavery.

Listen to the voices of the experts who council against mining in the Cockpit Country.

Look at the areas where mining was practiced in the past, talk to the people in the areas and let them tell you about the present condition of the soil today.

Believe me Mr. Prime Minister the Cockpit Country can be much more profitable for the Country and its people as a protected area and a National Heritage Site, mining will destroy it beyond recognition.

Listen to and evaluate the merits of the voices speaking out against mining in the Cockpit Country.

If you have not done so, visit the Cockpit Country and talk to the people who live there, let them tell you how they feel about mining.

Learn about all the rare species inhabiting the Cockpit Country. Experience the clean and crystal sources of water flowing out of the mountains and the forests, then ask yourself if you can support the destruction of such a pristine environment.

Sincerely

Kenneth George Dill

A Considered Jamaican