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Tourism has long been the leading economic sector in Jamaica, bringing in half of all foreign revenue to support a quarter of all jobs. Yet government officials now risk jeopardizing that lucrative business, and Jamaica’s reputation in the international community, with a secretive deal to let a Chinese company build a mega-freighter seaport smack-dab in the nation’s largest natural protected area.

So reports: TakePart

The planned port would occupy the Goat Islands, in the heart of the Portland Bight Protected Area, which only last year the same government officials were petitioning UNESCO to designate a Global Biosphere Reserve. Instead, the lure of a $1.5 billion investment and a rumored 10,000 jobs has resulted in the deal with China Harbour Engineering Company, part of a conglomerate blacklisted by the World Bank under its Fraud and Corruption Sanctioning Policy.

Many details of the proposed project remain unknown, and the government has rebuffed repeated requests for information under Jamaica’s equivalent of the Freedom of Information Act. But the plan is believed to involve clear-cutting the mangrove forests on both Goat Islands, building up a level work area using dredge spoils from the surrounding waters, and constructing a coal-fired power plant to support the new infrastructure. The port, including areas currently designated as marine sanctuaries, would accommodate “post-Panamax”-size ships—up to 1,200 feet long and with a 50-foot draft—arriving via the newly expanded Panama Canal.

The new port would compromise an area known for extensive sea‐grass beds, coral reefs, wetlands, and Jamaica’s largest mangrove forests (mangroves sequester more per-acre carbon than rainforests do). The protected area is also home to the Jamaican iguana, a species believed extinct until its dramatic rediscovery in 1990. Since then, the international conservation community has spent millions of dollars rebuilding the iguana population in a protected forest in the Hellshire Hills, part of the reserve adjacent to the proposed port. Much of that investment hinged on the government’s promise, now apparently discarded, that the Goat Islands would become a permanent home for the iguanas, which are Jamaica’s largest vertebrate species.

According to Anole Annals

The China Harbour Engineering Company (CHEC) has proposed the construction of a trans shipping port  and logistics hub in Jamaica to take advantage of the expansion of the Panama Canal, and has selected the Goat islands as its suitable location, even going so far as to decline several alternatives which were offered for development  due to  land area restraints as well  as the optimal location of the islands in relation to Kingston Harbour. Should the project receive the go ahead from the Jamaican parliament,  it is likely that the entire PBPA will be affected. With an estimated budget of US$1.5 billion (so far I do not believe the government has explicitly stated the exact amount) invested by CHEC, this is a construction project on a grand scale. The  size of the port would greatly exceed the combined area of the Goat Islands, which in all likelihood would be bulldozed and dredged in the process as the water around the islands is only 11 feet deep, and would extend onto the coastal mainland. The  construction of the port as well as the resulting  economic activities that it would open the way for would have a devastating impact on the coastal dry forest ecosystems  of the PBPA as a result of pollution as well as environmental degradation seeing as the Goat Islands and their surrounding reefs serve as natural buffers to effect of waves on the coastline. Should the port be built, it is very likely that many of the endemic plant and animal species of the PBPA , which represent a large chunk of the endemic biodiversity of the Caribbean, would be lost.

The project is still being reviewed and the government has not signed off on the area as the definite location of the Logistics hub yet. The area is currently being assessed by the Jamaican Port Authority  to investigate the social,  economical and environmental implications that this will have and the project is being reviewed by CHEC  in order to draft a final proposal to the Jamaican government. The government  seems intent on going through with the project and so far key members in the debate have expressed sentiments such as that ”two likkle lizaad” (two small lizards) are not enough to hinder the development of the Jamaican economy. Admittedly, some of Jamaica’s involved ministers have not given details as to whether  not  the  project is likely to  be undertaken in the PBPA.

Jamaica’s existing port in Kingston Harbor could be expanded to handle the new traffic, Alfred Sangster, past president of Jamaica’s University of Technology, wrote earlier this week in the Jamaica Observer. The Chinese decision to reject that option “reflects a clear desire to have an enclave on the islands” where it can operate with fewer restrictions. He characterized the Chinese as the “new colonialists…in a country which has long memories of the legacies of colonialism.”

Diana McCaulay, CEO of the Jamaica Environment Trust, noted that the government has already relaxed work permit rules and created new categories of economic citizenship to accommodate the proposed project. On previous projects with Chinese contractors, she said, the majority of employees have been Chinese people. “And where they do employ Jamaican people, they don’t obey our work rules,” she said. She also worried that the secret terms of the deal may include tax or other incentives. “What is the benefit to Jamaica? That’s not clear.”

She added that China Harbour had insisted on building a coal-fired power plant, despite the inevitable contribution to climate change, because Jamaica’s electricity rates are too high. “Imagine that. We have to pay [the high rates], and they don’t.”

As one of the most indebted nations in the world, Jamaica is dependent on an International Monetary Fund financial package that stipulates paying down the nation’s debts. McCaulay attributed the deal to “desperation for what they call ‘development,’ but it’s more about winning an election in two years” for the government of Prime Minister Portia Simpson-Miller “than any benefit to Jamaica.”

Conservationists say the Jamaican government does not much concern itself over internal protests, but both Jamaica and China are concerned about international opinion. Jamaica’s economy depends largely on European and American tourists, and the U.S. consumer market is the ultimate destination for most ships that would be using the Goat Islands port. So signatures from outside Jamaica may carry weight on a petition asking Prime Minister Simpson-Miller to stop the proposed development.

Pro-Development EIS prepared by Jamaican Government

The Logistics Hub Initiative

Officials insist Goat Islands must be protected

Let’s Save Jamaica’s Portland Bight Protected Area-With gorgeous photos .

Port Authority Will Continue Goat Islands Assessment – Dr. Davies

JAMAICA MPA PROJECT

Remember, the Jamaican government and the China Harbour Engineering Company do not care about the Jamaican people. They and CHEC do care deeply about world opinion though. Here is a chance to make them squirm.

Petitioning Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller, et al 2

Originally posted to Pakalolo on Fri Apr 25, 2014 at 12:14 PM PDT.

Also republished by DK GreenRoots.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Tip Jar (13+ / 0-)

    "If you do not change direction, you may end up where you are heading."- Lao-Tzu

    by Pakalolo on Fri Apr 25, 2014 at 12:14:47 PM PDT

  •  Holy crap this is terrible! (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Cadillac64

    Great diary!

    “In the beginning there was nothing, which exploded.” Terry Pratchett

    by 420 forever on Fri Apr 25, 2014 at 12:24:08 PM PDT

  •  Great diary, but I have one issue with it (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    vcmvo2

    high foreign debt forces countries to make these types of choices. I don't think the issue is that the current government doesn't care about the people, it's that Jamaica is being crushed by it's debt load.

    The main tax in Jamaica is the GCT (General Consumption Tax) it's basically a VAT tax. Currently 60% of the tax goes toward paying back it's debt load, only 30% goes towards education! This feeds a feeling in Jamaica that government doesn't care when it's really government can't afford to care.

    Now China is being very savvy investing in developing countries with high debt loads, because they offer both hard currency, quick investments, and infrastructure projects. So in fact a boycott Jamaica would have the opposite effect. It would be seen as Western/Northern interference and aggression between two non-white nations, by a bunch of neocolonialist.

    My family is from Jamaica, this isn't the way to fight the issue. Work to relocate the port, or push to lower Jamaica's debt load.

    -1.63/ -1.49 "Speaking truth to power" (with snark of course)! Follow on Twitter @dopper0189

    by dopper0189 on Fri Apr 25, 2014 at 01:01:13 PM PDT

  •  Oh, I can answer that (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    dopper0189

    Jamaica isn't a coastal ecotourism destination; it's a beach and highland eco-cultural-tourism destination and that second one is very secondary.  They don't make any money off of those mangrove swamps.  I'd rather they didn't turn their mangrove swamps into concrete jungles, but they wouldn't exactly be killing the goose that laid the golden egg.  And it's not like the US ever refrained from doing something like this just because it would destroy a place of natural beauty., at least we didn't until we got wealthy enough that we could make a few token gestures.

    It's not the side effects of the cocaine/I'm thinking that it must be love

    by Rich in PA on Fri Apr 25, 2014 at 01:16:23 PM PDT

  •  Where is the U.S. Government in this deal (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    NoMoreLies

    with the Chinese? The U.S. is in a tactical battle with the Chinese who are hell-bent on obtaining worldwide economic and industrial superiority as  soon as possible. The American public is purposely kept ignorant as to the real ambitions of the Chinese, and we are made to believe that the competition with the Chinese is limited to American manufacturing jobs going to Chinese low wage workers.

    In reality the Chinese are rapidly moving towards reaching out to seize the golden crown of world domination. During the presidency of George W. Bush the Chinese held an AESAN conference (which the U.S. did not have any representative present) and they (the Chinese) signed ALL AESAN members to a mutual economic and DEFENSE pact with China. President Obama is trying to counter this colossal screw-up by the Bush administration by offering the Asian nations the TPP - but its too late that horse has already left the barn and the Chinese are riding it!

    Meanwhile the Chinese are busy establishing a huge project like this in America's own back yard. I repeat my question, is anybody in the Obama White House taking measure of this latest Chinese expansion in Jamaica?

  •  All of the text in this diary is from another (0+ / 0-)

    source, not just the blockquoted material.  Citing TakePart is great, but all of this writing is theirs.  Unless you're the original author, this should be taken down.

    Saint, n. A dead sinner revised and edited. - Ambrose Bierce

    by pico on Fri Apr 25, 2014 at 03:50:42 PM PDT

  •  Quick answer -- follow the money. n/t (0+ / 0-)

    "Caedite eos. Novit enim Dominus qui sunt eius." -- Arnaud Amaury

    by terremoto on Fri Apr 25, 2014 at 04:51:25 PM PDT

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