News america now reports the COVID recovery spurt in Jamaica threatens green targets. [This article includes reporting by Kate Chappell, and editing by Jumana Farouky and Laurie Goering. Reuters.]

As a child, Sophie Grizzle Roumel remembers swimming in the warm turquoise waters near a mangrove-lined beach outside her small village in western Jamaica. Today, the white sand beach is overcrowded with heavy trucks and the land around it is bared with trees as excavators graduate part of the mangrove forest to make way for a new $ 550 million resort project. “It is a beautiful property. It is heartbreaking to see what is being done, ”said Grizzle Roumel, seaside resort director for the Negril Chamber of Commerce. “I am devastated by the destruction and the long-term effects it will have.”

Located just behind Jamaica’s famous all-inclusive resort on the north coast, the project is a strong example of the dual challenges the country is facing: how to attract visitors and create jobs after COVID-19 while maintaining its commitment to the global To slow down warming.

All over the Caribbean, one of the most tourism-dependent regions in the world, states are struggling to protect the environment and boost their economies, said Mark Bynoe, deputy director of the Caribbean Community Climate Change Center (CCCCC). “Governments are often able to want to do the right thing, but the rest of the population is agitated to see change and these are often measured very discreetly,” including employment and poverty rates, he said.

The new resort, with more than 2,000 rooms, will be one of the largest in Jamaica, according to the Spanish developer Princess Hotels and Resorts, which began preparatory work for the project two years ago. Rafael Millan, Country Manager for Princess Hotels and Resorts, said the finished resort could welcome up to 4,070 visitors a day and create 3,500 jobs. The company is focused on minimizing the project’s environmental damage, he added. “Every single action we take has compensatory measures,” he told the Thomson Reuters Foundation in a telephone interview.

This includes replanting mangroves, seagrass, and coral that were removed during construction. “We know that preserving the mangroves is a sign of our resort’s identity,” said Millan. “There is a way to keep sustainable tourism in an existing natural area that is subject to tourist activities.”

PROTECTED AREAS CONSTRUCTION

An assessment published by the National Environment and Planning Agency (NEPA) in January 2020 found that the Princess Resort will be built in an area that includes four conservation areas, including a fish sanctuary. Upon completion, the report estimates that the 34-acre development will have removed more than 10 acres of mangroves and 10,000 square meters (107,600 square feet) of seaweed and hard corals.

Scientists say mangrove forests are invaluable in tackling both the causes and the effects of climate change. They absorb the planet’s warming carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and protect coastlines from storms, floods and erosion. The trees also provide habitat for wildlife, including the fish and crabs that locals harvest to make a living.

As part of the approval process, Princess Hotels agreed to strict adjustment and compensation measures, but Diana McCaulay, founder of the nonprofit Jamaica Environment Trust, said that was not enough. “You are still losing the ecosystem functions of the mangroves in the area you are taking them from. Even if you manage to restore it or create it in (another) part of the coast, you are still leaving an impact on that part of the coast, ”she said. “Even if they survive in the new area, you have to wait 20 or 30 years for them to grow. And it can fail. ”NEPA and the Jamaica Ministry of the Environment did not respond to requests for comment.

RECOVERY AFTER THE PANDEMIC

Jamaica has been recognized by the international community for its commitment to tackling the climate crisis. By 2030, the country has promised to plant three million trees, restore its mangrove forests, reduce CO2 emissions by at least 25% from normal levels, and switch to cleaner energy sources such as wind and solar power.

According to estimates from a 2019 government report, Jamaica has lost more than 770 acres of mangroves in the past two decades for a variety of reasons, mainly from coastal development.

Carlos Fuller, Belize Ambassador to the United Nations and a former civil servant of the CCCCC, said balancing economic development and environmental protection is possible, but not easy. “It’s a challenge. (Belize) really depends on the creation of (economic) resources. But with hotels, unlike mega-resorts, we’ve gone much more towards small businesses,” said Fuller on the phone. “In the end of the day you may want to hurry to get a quick return, but in five years you will be degrading the environment and losing your market. [. . .]

You can find the full article at https://www.newsamericasnow.com/caribbean-travel-covid-19-recovery-push-in-this-caribbean-country-threatens-green-goals/

[Photo above from https://www.visitjamaica.com/plan-your-trip/explore-the-island/negril/.]



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