03.10.12

A new ERA for Jamaica's environment?

Krishna Desai
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(876) 922-5860 or (876) 322-0579

here are significant changes being proposed for the regulation and management of Jamaica's environment which will affect businesses and business interests. Businesses, and other stakeholders, will have a chance to give their input in a series of public consultations being held by the government in October to discuss Green Paper No. 2/2010 "The establishment of an Environmental Regulatory Authority (ERA)".

A "green" paper is the precursor to official government policy and it gives everyone an opportunity to make comment and to air concern before a proposal becomes a "white" paper - or official government policy.

This current green paper recognizes that "some significant problems in the current arrangements for planning and environmental regulation in Jamaica are impeding investment and development, whilst also failing to give the environment adequate protection." While those are strong words for the government to utter in any self-assessment, there is no doubt that it is a true reflection of the current regulatory regime.

Business interests, such as land developers and industrial manufacturers, have for many years been vocal that the current regulatory arrangements result in unduly long processing times for development approvals even where the applications are for relatively simply developments which are environmentally benign. Other complaints relate to the myriad overlapping and unclear roles of different regulatory agencies and the apparent lack of coordination and communication between different arms of the government.

In order to address these, and other, problems three key steps are recommended in the green paper;
(1) To establish an Environmental Regulatory Authority (ERA),
(2) To develop a National Spatial Plan, and
(3) To give the existing National Environment & Planning Agency (NEPA) the lead role in helping to solve environmental problems.

The business community will be keen to note that the ERA will have primary responsibility for environmental policing in terms of monitoring for compliance with permits, licences, and other approvals and for the enforcement of environmental and planning laws. While in the main this role will be no different from that which is currently the legal mandate of NEPA; the proposal is that the new ERA will be a specialised, skilled agency, focused primarily on the most serious offenders.