Land and Resources, Environmental Issues
environmental deterioration, Soil degradation, oil pollution, water shortages, oil spills
Jamaica theoretically has a protected area system composed of forest reserves, nature protection areas, and parks. However, until recently the system was not centrally managed and suffered from inadequate budget, staff, management, and enforcement. In the late 1980s and early 1990s the country worked with nongovernmental and foreign aid organizations to consolidate potential protected areas into functional national parks with efficient administration.
The absence of a clear environmental policy combined with a steadily growing population has brought about an inevitable ecological deterioration of the island. Soil degradation and water shortages are common. Coastal waters are polluted by industrial waste, sewage, and oil spills. Automobile traffic in Kingston causes significant air pollution. Safe drinking water is generally available, although access to sanitation is still low.
Jamaica’s biodiversity has suffered with environmental deterioration. Natural habitats are threatened by rapid deforestation. Government policy encourages conversion of “idle” land into fields and pasture. Once completely forested, about 30 percent of Jamaica’s surface was forested in 2000.The deforestation rate at 1.5 percent per year during 1990-2000 was high, pushing the few remaining stands of trees into small mountain enclaves. Despite a thriving tourist industry and potential for ecotourism, visits to scenic protected sites such as forest recreation areas were rare through the early 1990s.
Jamaica is party to several regional agreements on conservation of marine resources and combating oil pollution in the Caribbean Sea. It ratified the World Heritage Convention in 1983.
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