by: Rosalee D. Wood
“When the last tree has been cut down, the last fish caught, the last river poisoned, only then will we realize that one cannot eat money.”
Jamaica’s main revenue stream is from Tourism, which explains why the Tourism ministry works assiduously to increase the number of visitors each year to the island for this main reason. So far, they have done an excellent job in increasing flights and cruises from various destinations across the world. It is important to note, however, that we attract tourists because of our Geological Heritage, something we need to protect just as important as other aspects of our heritage.
When we speak of Geological Heritage, we are referring to the natural geomorphologic features that are seen as intriguing because of their beauty, scientific and/or educational value. Jamaica is known as the land of wood and water. The beauty of the island, because of these geological heritage sites, is our main selling point for tourism. Some of our more famous geological heritage sites used for tourism are the Blue Mountain, the island’s longest mountain range, the world-renowned Dunn’s River Falls, and, of course, our famous Seven Mile Beach in Negril.
In recent days, many have fallen into shock about the drying up of the Somerset Falls in Portland, one of our main tourist destinations in that part of the island, and speculations have started to arise regarding what could have caused this phenomenon. In addition, there have been cries about possible mining in the Cockpit Country, which is a protected natural reserve. One Facebook group labelled the Cockpit Warriors are opposing this by voicing the negative impact that bauxite mining will have on the environment. However, several geologists and other political figures have discarded the notion that there will be mining in the Cockpits.
Bauxite mining, however, is not the only act by mankind that can have a negative impact on the environment. Other issues that must be taken into consideration include pollution and illegal construction, and these cannot only be blamed on the government, but residents as well, who must also play their role.
PIT LATERINES, ILLEGAL CONSTRUCTION AND OLD FARMING PRACTICES
Jamaica’s Geological Heritage includes the mountain ranges, our rivers, waterfalls and our beaches. The government has banned the use of single-use plastics in a bid to lessen the hazard that plastic waste has caused on the environment, while promoting more biodegradable and re-usable products. While this is considered a good move, there is still the issue of persons discarding of their waste improperly. Garbage is being dumped in gullies, in rivers and in valleys. Pollution does not only refer to improper garbage disposal. Although the country has become modernized, there are still several persons living in the country, and even the city areas, that have pit latrines. This is considered improper sewage disposal, which also negatively impacts our environment. Soil, water and air pollution are the results when either are contaminated by hazardous waste. This contributes to the creation of greenhouse gases and also harms marine and wildlife.
Construction alters geological heritage, therefore, we have to be mindful of where we build and what we build when we build. All construction must be approved by the parish council in each parish. However, the impact of illegal settlements is an issue right across the island. One of the major negative impacts of illegal construction on the environment includes flooding, landslides, and deforestation. These natural disasters help to alter the geological state of the environment. The long-term effect will see rivers changing route or drying up, less forest cover on our mountain ranges and beaches experiencing erosion.
At the recently held 67th staging of the Denbigh Agricultural, Industrial and Food Show, Prime Minister Andrew Holness urged that farmers refrain from “longstanding agricultural practices” such as the slash and burn technique in a bid to protect the environment. The negative effects of this practice include deforestation, depopulation of wildlife and loss of their habitats, an increase in wild bush fires, and an increase in air pollution and the release of carbon into the atmosphere – which contributes to global climate change.
If we lose our geological heritage, our island will have nothing to offer to tourists. In light of this, there are several environmentalists who have been raising awareness and teaching persons how to avoid destroying our main revenue generator. The onus is not only on the government to play their role, but also on the citizens.