New Highway Wreaking Environmental Havoc in Old Fort Bay

Residents of Old Fort Bay in St. Ann have been complaining about dirt and garbage washing into the sea, as a result of the highway being built in the area.

Environmentalists say the pollutants could have a disastrous effect on marine life.

The Chinese developers are rushing to fix the problem in reaction to threats of legal action by the responsible government agency.

The picturesque Old Fort Bay is approximately halfway between Ocho Rios and St. Ann’s Bay, near the Riu and Jewels Resorts in Mammee Bay and only one mile from the world famous Dunns River Falls tourist attraction.

Foreigners pay top dollar for high end vacation homes at Old Fort Village and the nearby Mammee Bay Estates.

But lately, the view from the white sand beaches has been far from perfect.

Rather than crystal clear and shades of blue, the sea has now turned a chalky white, spoilt by the intrusion of garbage.

Peter Knight is the CEO of the National Environment and Planning Agency, NEPA.

According to CEO of the Jamaica Environment Trust, JET, Diana McCaulay, the heavy silt and garbage is smothering invaluable coral reefs and sea grass which keep the marine environment intact.

The pollutants also compromise the aesthetic value of the marine area and compromise a key selling point used by tourism interests to keep visitors coming back.

Both NEPA and JET believe the major source of the problem is the new highway development.

The recently-opened Moneague to Ocho Rios leg of the North/South Highway runs through Chalky Hill.

To build it, the developers at China Harbour Engineering Company, CHEC, had to remove trees, along with tonnes of marl and soil.

So now, whenever it rains, silt and debris wash down into the sea. This was not supposed to happen.

According to the Environmental Permit, obtained by Nationwide News under the Access to Information Act, CHEC was supposed to submit details of how they would monitor water and air quality.

They were also supposed to outline how they planned to control runoff, turbidity, sedimentation and debris flow into waterways.

They were also required to state their plans for replanting trees.

In an emailed response to Nationwide News, China Harbour says they have submitted these documents.

But Ms. McCaulay says the submission of paperwork is not the issue.

They’ve written two warning letters to CHEC, the most recent dated February 12, 2016.

CHEC has responded to say they’re not entirely responsible for the situation at Old Fort Bay.

They’ve also sent Nationwide News several photographs showing drainage channels currently under construction, which they say will prevent the marl from being washed away from the area.

But Peter Knight says CHEC has been in breach of the permit all along the way.

Knight says his team will visit Old Fort Bay on Friday to assess both the site and CHEC’s mitigation plan.

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4 thoughts on “New Highway Wreaking Environmental Havoc in Old Fort Bay

  1. Jahmusic

    This is what happens when we “don’t dictate to foreign investors”. We get shafted. Everyone on this rock, foreign or local must take care of the environment, its the only one we have.

  2. Shirley Holness

    This engineering company has been constantly in breach of almost every rules ans regulations in this Country. And yet they are not really held unaccountable. And they continue to behave as if they are not compelled to adhere to regulations and laws of the State. #SoDisappointed.

  3. Marcus A Bogle

    We are curious the see a follow up article to this issue. What exactly have #CHEC and #JNSH done and are doing to remedy the problem they have created or exacerbated? Has the work on the solution been completed? If not, when is it expected to be completed? The People of Jamaican needs to know. #TalkTheTruth

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