JET opens new Save Cockpit Country campaign

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THE Jamaica Environment Trust (JET) last Thursday released a new public service announcement (PSA), the latest production under its Save Cockpit Country campaign.

The episode was released via JET’s social media network ahead of tomorrow’s observation of Earth Day and is the second in a three-part series highlighting the importance of the Cockpit Country.

“The second PSA outlines the role of ground-truthing in the process towards the declaration of the Cockpit Country Protected Area (CCPA) under law,” a JET release quotes CEO Suzanne Stanley. “Each episode has a different theme — the first episode highlights the important water resources, biodiversity, forests and communities Cockpit Country supports.”

The PSA series is hosted by 10-year-old Amirah Dixon, a student environmental leader from Marjam Prep School in St Ann, who has been participating in JET’s Schools’ Environment Programme through her school’s Green Kids’ Club since 2014.

Episode 1 of the PSA series features Amirah exploring the rugged terrain of the Cockpit Country on foot.

“Cockpit Country is water… Cockpit Country is people… Cockpit Country is Jamaica’s heartland,” the young narrator exclaims.

In episode 2, Amirah explains that ground-truthing confirms what features along the boundary should be included in the CCPA. She also asserts that if any big changes are made to the protected area boundary, Jamaicans should be told why.

“Every Jamaican should be following the process to protect Cockpit Country — so much is at stake,” says Amirah at the end of episode 2. “Until ground-truthing is complete, the Cockpit Country cannot be protected under Jamaican law.”

On November 21, 2017, Prime Minister Andrew Holness announced the designated CCPA boundary in Parliament. He said the area would comprise approximately 74,726 hectares and would include existing forest reserves, significant hydrological and ecological features and cultural and heritage sites. The Forestry Department has been tasked with ground-truthing the CCPA boundary, which it has scheduled to be completed in early 2020.

Through its Advancing the Protection of Jamaica’s Cockpit Country project, which began in May 2018, JET has been advocating an expedited ground-truthing of the CCPA boundary and the involvement of civil society and local communities in management planning for the protected area.

“The series aim is to keep the conversation about the protection of the Cockpit Country going,” said Stanley. “The final episode will be released in May and will feature testimonials from Cockpit Country residents who live in communities where bauxite mining is taking place just outside the designated protected area.”

Since 2018, JET and Cockpit Country communities have been advocating that a buffer zone should be established around the CCPA to ensure that important groundwater reserves in and around the Cockpit Country remain intact. They assert that activities which will damage the natural environment, important cultural and historical sites, and local livelihoods should not be allowed within this buffer zone, including quarrying, mining and prospecting.

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