KINGSTON, Jamaica, July 4, 2022 - Jamaica's Opposition Peoples National Party says it is deeply concerned with reports of yet another fish kill in the Rio Cobre River and calls for immediate action by the Government through the National Environmental Protection Agency, NEPA.
Opposition Spokesperson on Land, Environment and Climate Change, Senator Sophia Frazer-Binns says the recent visit from the responsible Minister, Matthew Samuda, does not go far enough in dealing with the reality that the Government has failed the residents and communities in and around the Rio Cobre.
“Their failure to take decisive action, as provided in the law, has led to this ongoing environmental disaster with little end in sight. The destructive financial impact on families who have to start all over as they lose significant earnings due to loss of trade is cruel and must be cauterised. Additionally, the promised assistance by the Government must be immediate and meaningful”, said Senator Frazer-Binns.
The Opposition is calling on the Government to show its sincerity by debating the motion which called for a review of the Natural Resources and Conservation Act including penalties provided therein which was tabled in the Senate more than a year ago.
“It appears that the source of the pollution is known. The perpetrator at their cost, must be made to implement proper and effective remedial steps that will ensure that this does not happen again”, said Senator Frazer-Binns.
Senator Frazer-Binns noted that there are powers available to NEPA under varying legislation including the suspension of the permit of the perpetrator until the problem has been rectified satisfactorily. The Senator expressed that there have been multiple such breaches over several years; destroying the livelihood of communities.
The Opposition is therefore calling on the Government to immediately right the wrongs and do more for the people; by using all powers within the law to put an end to the constant and considerable fish kills in the Rio Cobre and the destruction of livelihood.
Minister Samuda told the media on July 31 following a visit to the affected area in Ewarton, St. Catherine, that one of the strategies being put in place to address this issue is the establishment of a second Effluent Holding Pond and increasing the capacity of the old pond to prevent spillages of chemical into the river.
This was the directive of the National Environment and Planning Agency (NEPA) to Windalco, following another massive effluent leak in 2019, which also caused a fish kill.
“My understanding is that this project should be completed between September and November. This reservoir, we hope and we expect, based on assessments, would be sufficient to stop effluent flow in any large way into the river,” Samuda said.