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Goat Islands

Photo: Jeremy Francis

A tragedy is unfolding in Jamaica.

The Goat Islands and two fish sanctuaries in the Portland Bight Protected Area may be destroyed to make way for a mega trans-shipment port, proposed by the international contractor China Harbour Engineering Company.

“There has been no official announcement of the plan, still no details, no consultation with anyone, not even with the NGO currently managing the protected area,” says ELAW partner Diana McCaulay at the Jamaica Environment Trust.

ELAW is working with Diana to get the word out before it’s too late, and sharing the expertise of grassroots leaders from around the world who are working to save protected areas from development schemes.  Learn more about what’s unfolding in Jamaica in an interview with Diana on All Angles, Television Jamaica.

Thank you for your interest!

Maggie Keenan
Communications Director

Our partners at the Jamaica Environment Trust (JET) achieved an important victory for Jamaicans and the environment.  JET challenged the government’s construction of a new road on the Palisadoes tombolo, a narrow spit fringed with mangroves, sand dunes, and rare, native plant species.  It is also a sea turtle nesting beach.  Palisadoes connects Kingston and the mainland to the Norman Manley International Airport and the historic town of Port Royal. The strip forms part of the Palisadoes-Port Royal Protected Area and has been declared a Wetland of International Importance by the Ramsar Convention.

A section of the Palisadoes strip that was cleared by bulldozers in September 2010 to make way for the new highway.

JET argued that the government had not provided sufficient information about the project and had not adequately consulted the public.  JET explains that “[t]he court ruled that [the government] breached the legal standard for consultation and breached the legitimate expectation that all environmental information relative to the development of Palisadoes would be disclosed to the public and the applicant before approval was granted.”

Unfortunately, despite ruling that the government’s actions did not meet the legal standard for public participation, the damage was already done and the court allowed the permits to stand. Therefore, construction of the roadway, boardwalk and seawalls will continue.

Although the impacts to the environment in this particular project will not be stopped, this is a very important legal victory – and should help stop future ill-conceived projects from going forward.  Improving public participation in decisions that impact the environment is critical for achieving sustainable development.

Congratulations JET!

Jen Gleason
Staff Attorney

In November 2010, a young family – husband, wife, son – showed up at the front door of the Jamaica Environment Trust (JET).  They lived at 10 Mile in Bull Bay in St Andrew, and were concerned that their community was at risk from the nearby mining operation of Caribbean Cement/Jamaica Gypsum and Quarries.  They told us of a significant flooding event in 2002, when many homes in their community were badly damaged.  The residents of 10 Mile were still seeing build up of the mining waste and feared the same thing would happen again.  We went with them that same day and saw what appeared to us to be a very worrying pile of tailings that had been dumped in a river course.

JET contacted the Company and the regulators, obtained the various licenses and rehabilitation plans, and in May 2011, were taken on a tour of the mining operations by Caribbean Cement’s Acting Quarries Manager.
On this visit, we observed that there was some effort underway to remove the tailings, but the situation still appeared unsatisfactory.  We did not think we had the required technical expertise to assess the risks to the community and to the environment or to make suitable recommendations, however, so we called on ELAW for help.  And help ELAW did.

ELAW Director Glenn Miller (second from right) and JET Staff

Professor Glenn Miller, a Board member of ELAW who is also a mining industry expert and a professor in the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Science at the University of Nevada, agreed to visit the quarries in July 2011.  Glenn flew to Jamaica during an unusually rainy week, and on July 13, 2011, Glenn, Danielle, and I toured the mining area, escorted by representatives from the Company.

Because it was raining, Glenn was able to see where the river flowed, where it was blocked, and also the amount of silt in the water – the mine is very near to the coast.  We climbed on top of the huge pile of tailings, criss crossed with large fissures.  There was one moment when I looked at Glenn and Danielle standing on this obviously unstable material at the edge of a cliff and thought: But we are risking our lives! This thing could collapse at any minute! And we could see the houses of the community far below in the valley.

Glenn was able to confirm our impression of the mine – this was a highly unsatisfactory and dangerous situation.  After the site visit, we met both with senior executives of the Company and convened a large meeting of the regulatory bodies and showed them the photographs we had taken. Glenn then drafted a report containing a series of recommendations to improve the operation of the mine and begin rehabilitation, and this has been sent to the Company and the regulatory agencies.  JET will continue to monitor the operation and hope for some early improvements.

By coincidence, while Glenn was in Jamaica, there was a cyanide spill at an abandoned gold mine and he was able to give technical advice to the regulators and consultants involved in cleaning it up.

JET is very grateful to ELAW and to Glenn for helping us with this – and we hope our intervention will avoid a catastrophic slope failure in 10 Mile, Bull Bay, with serious consequences for those who live there.  We also hope for improvements in the regulatory environment for mining generally – as this particular mine really highlighted those weaknesses as well.

Diana McCaulay
Chief Executive Officer
Jamaica Environment Trust (JET)

Our friends at the Jamaica Environment Trust (JET) are celebrating 20 years of protecting the environment in Jamaica!  ELAW is privileged to work closely with JET and I am constantly amazed at what a small group of people is able to accomplish.  I encourage everyone to watch From Small Beginnings, a beautiful video that tells JET’s story and celebrates its accomplishments.


Congratulations, JET!

Jen Gleason
Staff Attorney

We are wrapping up the look back at our favorite ELAW moments from 2010, with entries from ELAW’s Executive Director, Bern Johnson, and Associate Director, Lori Maddox. Bern and Lori have been with ELAW from the beginning. They have been a part of many landmark victories and memorable moments. Like so many members of the ELAW network, they have also become fast friends with partners around the world, working together for years and sharing more than legal resources.

Thanks for reading in 2010. We hope you will feel inspired to share these stories with others and continue following ELAW in 2011.

Lauren, ELAW Office Manager


Bern Johnson, ELAW Executive Director
Saving Pellew Island

Saving Pellew Island is a favorite victory.  Pellew Island is a tiny little dot of 1.5 acres off Eastern Jamaica’s Portland Parish.  I’ve never seen it.  I’ve never even been to Jamaica!

Yet, I smile when I think about Pellew Island.  I know that people in Jamaica have been enjoying Pellew Island for generations.  I know it is home to native trees, a pristine beach, healthy seagrass beds, and coral reefs.  I know that one of our partners in Jamaica—Diana McCaulay—spent many happy hours on Pellew Island as a child.

I also know that the owners of Pellew Island proposed to build four villas on the island—they were advertised for sale on for $2.5 million apiece.  Building these villas would have destroyed living things on Pellew Island and forever changed it—it would have ceased being a natural place that Jamaicans could enjoy.  And, I know that in Jamaica it is hard to win lasting victories for the environment, especially when someone stands to make big money by destroying natural treasures.

So, I am thrilled that Jamaica’s government rejected plans to build these villas on Pellew Island.  When I think of this tiny island, I am reminded:  Greed does not have to win–people can decide that some places are too unique and too special to be sacrificed for profit. Profits come and go, but I hope Pellew Island stays pristine forever.

Lori Maddox, ELAW Associate Director
ELAW – My Extended Family

Zschiesche family in Eugene

When I reflect on what might be my ELAW “pick” for 2010, what comes to mind FIRST is a steady stream of faces of the people in the ELAW network -who form an integral part of my extended family.  Watching Thuli Makama receive the Goldman Prize in San Francisco, welcoming Thuli and her daughters to the home of an ELAW Director in Berkeley, watching the teenagers compare notes about school in Berkeley and Swaziland.  Welcoming Jean Andre Victor, of Haiti, to my local Eugene international potluck group.  Birdwatching in Costa Rica at 6am with Ritwick (India), Ipat (Philippines) and Ian (Australia) – while swapping organizing strategies and stories of our work.  Welcoming the dawn on Solstice Day from the top of a mountain with my family and the Zschiesche family, in Eugene on a fellowship from ELAW Germany.

Because for me, the greatest thing about ELAW is how our relationships help us get up every day and fight the good fight even better.  Michael Zschiesche visited Eugene in the early 1990s, when we were both a lot younger, and had big ideas, but very small organizations.  Now Michael leads the Independent Institute of Environmental Concerns (UfU) in Berlin, and we both have the good fortune to be part of a much bigger international ELAW family.  When Michael was here the first time, ELAW was comprised of a dozen or so advocates in as many countries.  Now we are 300 strong, in 70 countries.  His visit in 2010 helped me reflect on how far we have come, and what we, together, are accomplishing.  The volume of excellent work that my ELAW heroes churn out is astounding.

Coqui, ACCSD's first staff member

In addition to the wisdom of experience like Michael’s, I cherish the constant inflow of fresh perspective and new ideas.  This year I helped some great folks in Belize launch new organizations that will help advance environmental law.  So another “pick” would have to be celebrating the first staff and the new office of the Ambergris Caye Citizens for Sustainable Development (ACCSD) in San Pedro, and (office coming soon) its sister organization in Placencia: the Peninsula Citizens for Sustainable Development (PCSD).

And one final Belize “pick:” the publication of Stand Up, Speak Up, a citizens guide to public participation in Belize by BELPO.  The Guide is already in its second printing, and citizens around the country are using it to challenge a constant stream of short-sighted development schemes that threaten Belize’s unparalleled natural treasures.

Destruction of the Palisadoes Spit, September 2010

“An environmental victory is in some ways an absence – a road not built, a mine averted, a hotel relocated, a golf course avoided. We are used to the presence of a natural resource – while it persists, it’s unremarkable. An environmental victory is always temporary – no matter how solid the case, how overwhelming the public support – at some point in the future, an attempt will be made to reverse it….

“Environmental defeats, though, are glaring – forests razed, rivers “trained,” sand dunes destroyed, beaches scraped clean, wetlands laid waste. And despite the promise of the relatively new science of restoration ecology, such defeats are mostly permanent.

“On the doorstep to the city of Kingston in September 2010, you can see an environmental defeat. The Palisadoes spit, that jointed arm that holds Kingston Harbour in loose embrace, has been bulldozed…  At this point, it appears that the entire spit will be denuded of all vegetation, its beaches compacted, sand dunes destroyed, the few struggling strands of mangroves obliterated in order to construct or expand (it’s not entirely clear which) an utterly unnecessary road.

Diana McCaulay
Founder, Jamaica Environment Trust (JET)
ELAW Partner

Read the full story on Diana’s blog, where she beautifully captures the emotions of a heart-breaking environmental loss.  Jamaica Environment Trust created a YouTube video about this project. Click on this link for the video with further information about Palisadoes and photos of what is taking place.

We are honored to have our partner Diana McCaulay of Jamaica Environment Trust share her thoughts on their great victory cleaning up the Harbour View Sewage Treatment Plant.  Diana worked for many years with ELAW attorneys and scientists on this challenge — and her hard work as finally paid off!  Congratulations to Diana and all the people at JET and in Jamaica who never gave up.

Entrance to the plant

Entrance to the Harbour View Sewage Treatment Plant

Crimes Against Nature

The Harbour View Sewage Treatment Plant was one of the first places I saw, when I became interested in environmental issues back in the late 1980s. I have told this story so many times it feels like something I read. But it is my story. At the time I was working in the insurance industry and I applied for a day off – exchanged my suit and stockings for jeans and water boots – I had no idea what a sewage treatment plant might entail by way of terrain, but I was pretty sure there could be puddles. My escort, Dr. Homero Silva, on secondment to the Ministry of Health in Jamaica from the Pan American Health Organization and much more outspoken than anyone else at the time, took me to the Riverton City dump, and three of Kingston’s non functional sewage plants – Greenwich, Western and Harbour View. And I did need my water boots at Harbour View, because the sewage flowed everywhere, foamy and malodourous, carrying condoms and sanitary pad liners and untreated human excrement right into the sea.

I couldn’t believe it. I mean, who spends any time thinking about what happens when we flush a toilet, we just assume the engineers and contractors and regulators figure it out and we’re not directly responsible for polluting the sea, a river or the ground water several times a day. But there, in front of me on that stinking afternoon was the evidence that we couldn’t rely on engineers and contractors and government regulators. Then, I thought the problem was:  People didn’t know. After all, I hadn’t known. I would tell them.

And so I became a woman who was concerned about sewage plants and garbage dumps and eventually, I gave up my suits and stockings and went around Jamaica on my self-appointed mission of Telling People, initially with blown up photographs of the Harbour View sewage plant, Riverton City and denuded hillsides, then with a slide projector and a script, finally with a laptop and Power Point. I learned I was wrong about the problem – it was true people hadn’t known, but they preferred not to know. What could we do, after all? We just had to hope the engineers and the contractors and the government regulators would decide to do their work.

Fast forward to the late 1990s and the Jamaica Environment Trust (JET) was an Actual Organization and I was its CEO, and we teamed up with the Environmental Law Alliance Worldwide (ELAW), and the MacArthur Foundation to start an environmental law programme in Jamaica.

By then, I was burned out to ash, and the Harbour View Sewage Treatment Plant was still putting its untreated sewage into the sea. Our first Legal Director, Akilah Anderson, started working with the community – there were long years of letter writing and meetings and attempts at mediation and engagement with the press, all utterly unsuccessful. In 2005 we asked the community – will you go to court with us?  They thought about it. And they said no. Folks were afraid – they or their families worked for the Jamaican government, they feared victimization, they didn’t trust the courts, and they knew it would take years.   By then, it had become The Way it Was – if you lived in Harbour View, you smelled sewage, you didn’t use the beach and if your kids disobeyed you and went into the sea, they got sick.

Water flowing near the plant

Why didn’t we file legal action alone? Because I felt part of the problem in Jamaica was the belief that someone else should solve our problems, if not those engineers and contractors and government regulators, then some other figure of authority.   So I said to everyone who asked us for help – we will stand with you, but not in front of you.   Thanks, they said, and hung up the phone.

We never gave up on Harbour View, and in 2006, our second  Legal Director, Danielle Andrade, met two people who lived in the community who were prepared to go to court – Carol Lawton and Michael Williams. Carol was incensed when a representative of the National Water Commission told him that the sewage on the beach was not his concern. Michael’s son got sick after swimming in the sea. And so we started the long process of putting together a legal case, the taking of statements, the writing of affidavits, the soliciting of expert testimony, the researching of precedents and arguments – oh so much photocopying and binding and tabulating and stamping and notarizing – the piles and piles of paper this issue generated!  We sought leave to apply for Judicial Review in the Supreme Court, and it was granted, and by then Danielle had taken a sabbatical from JET to do a Master’s in environmental law, and we contracted attorney Clyde Williams to finish the case with us.

Three weeks before our day in court, we were contacted by the National Water Commission (NWC), the owners and non operators of the plant – they asked if we could resolve the matter “without troubling the court.” And in the end we went to court with a consent agreement which required the NWC to fix the plant, with details and timelines, to report their progress to us, including tours of the works, and declarations from the court that the regulatory agencies – the Kingston and St. Andrew Health Department, the National Environment and Planning Agency (NEPA) and the Natural Resources Conservation Authority (NRCA) had all failed to carry out their statutory duties.

On July 14th, 2010 I was part of a panel on “All Angles” on Television Jamaica (TVJ). Uncomfortably back in my suit (I hate doing TV), I watched the footage TVJ had taken – of the noxious sewage on the land and the curling surf right there, and even three children swimming in the sea. They interviewed one of the people who had moved onto the site and was living in those unspeakable conditions, she was so young, and she said, she needed materials for the place she would move to and she was sending this message straight to the Prime Minister. And I listened to the jacket-and-tie’d government people on the panel with me make their usual excuses and explanations for their thirty years of neglect, incompetence and willful abdication of their legal mandate.

Boniface church

Boniface Church

“Do you know what the most important thing a person needs in order to work for the Jamaican government?” I asked my colleagues in one of the breaks. “The ability to defend the indefensible,” I told them, not waiting for any expression of interest in my views. I wish I’d said it on air.

“What lesson do you take away from this?” the TV host, Dionne Jackson Miller asked me at the end of the programme.  “Go to court,” I said, trying to remember which camera I was supposed to look at. “It might take years, there are definitely risks, but in the end, that’s all that will bring the engineers and the contractors and the government regulators to the table.”

I haven’t done it yet, but before many days go by, I will go to the beach at Harbour View and look at the crime against nature and humanity that caused me to change my life course, and I hope I will have a moment of satisfaction, as I turn my back to the derelict sewage plant and look out to sea. And I’ll invite the Harbour View citizens, especially Carol and Michael, to come with me…

Diana McCaulay, Chief Executive Officer of Jamaica Environment Trust

(This blog entry was first published on the JET blog)

Dog-HeartThe Environmental Law Alliance Worldwide,  the Wayne Morse Center for Law and Politics, and University of Oregon’s LL.M. Program in Environmental and Natural Resources Law present Jamaican environmental advocate Diana McCaulay as she reads from her new novel DOG-HEART
Thursday, April 15
7:00 p.m.
Lewis Lounge
U of O School of Law – 4th Floor
1515 Agate Street
FREE and open to the public
Read Diana’s blog:

Diana McCaulayELAW Partner Diana McCaulay will show her documentary film Jamaica for Sale and speak about unsustainable tourism in Jamaica on Wednesday, April 14th in Seattle.  The event is co-sponsored by ELAW and the World Affairs Council. Here is more information about the event from the WAC website:

Unsustainable Tourism: Seattle Premier Screening of “Jamaica for Sale” & Conversation with Co-Producer Diana McCaulay April 14, 2010, 6:30 p.m.

Cost: WAC Members $10; Non-members $15; Students $10
Location: University of Washington – William H. Gates Hall Room 138 Seattle, WA 98195

Diana McCaulay, Founder and Chief Executive Officer of the Jamaica Environment Trust (JET)

Tourism can be a force for positive change in economically disadvantaged countries, but what are the negative impacts that come from development that caters to foreign tourists while ignoring the environmental, economic, and social needs of the local culture? Using Jamaica as a case study, what can be done to counteract the forces of unsustainable tourism? What are principles of eco-tourism or sustainable tourism that work?

Join the World Affairs Council as we present Diana McCaulay, Founder and Chief Executive Officer of the Jamaica Environment Trust (JET), for a discussion of her film “Jamaica for Sale” which shows the destructive side of Jamaica’s tourism industry.

Born in Jamaica, Diana McCaulay holds a Bachelor of Science Degree in Management Studies from University of the West Indies (UWI). In 1998, she left her private sector job to join the Jamaica Environment Trust as full-time Chief Executive Officer. The Jamaica Environment Trust focuses on environmental education and advocacy, and Diana is a leading advocate on a range of environmental issues.

Diana was the recipient of a Hubert Humphrey Fellowship in 2000 and studied a range of environmental subjects at the University of Washington. She went on to complete a Master’s Degree in Public Administration, with majors in environmental policy and international development. Between 2003 and 2005 and again in 2008, she served as a member of the Board of the Natural Resources Conservation Authority, the government regulatory body for environmental issues. She is also a past Chair of the National Environmental Societies Trust, an umbrella organization of environmental groups, and has served as Treasurer and Vice Chair of the Environmental Foundation of Jamaica, a local funding agency. She was a weekly columnist for The Gleaner for seven years (1994-2002), writing on environmental, gender and social issues. Her first novel “Dog-Heart” will be published in March 2010.

Environmental Law Alliance Worldwide (ELAW), a global network of local advocates who use law and science to advance environmental justice.

William H. Gates Public Service Law Program

Danielle A-crop ELAW partner Danielle Andrade was the subject of an interview on The Hub by Witness speaking about the intersection between environmental rights and human rights.

The Hub says:

As the legal director of the Jamaica Environment Trust (JET), Danielle Andrade supports local Jamaican communities, helping them to assert their rights.  In particular, she works with these communities to stand up to multi-national corporations who want to mine on their lands. In this interview, Danielle discusses her work in Cockpit Country, a densely forested region that is home to a community threatened by a mining operation. Danielle paints a human portrait of Cockpit Country, describing its people, its struggles, and ultimately its perseverance.

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