The Urban Development Corporation (UDC) hosted a Man and the Biosphere Workshop from July 5-7 at the Jamaica Conference Centre (JCC). The aim of the workshop was to sensitize the public on the importance of Biosphere Reserves and the management mechanisms to be employed in their functionality.
Speaking at the event Joy Douglas, General Manager of the UDC explained why the UDC would be involved in a workshop on the Biosphere. The simple answer, she said is contained in one of the key objectives of the biosphere network, which is to achieve a sustainable balance between conserving biological diversity, promoting economic development and maintaining associated cultural values. “Consequently, given our responsibility for national development and more so the design and planning of our urban centres, the UDC sees the embrace of the biosphere concept as a necessary and integral plank of our national development. "said Ms. Douglas Guest Speaker at the event, Sydney Bartley, Principal Director of Culture and Entertainment, Ministry of Youth, Sports and Culture said “The call is upon us to create operational strategies that are going to be converted into lifestyle arrangements that allow us in everything we do to protect and nurture the environment which is part of our being. We are here at this workshop, to create operational strategies that will influence lifestyle arrangements that affect the way in which we live or do things. Whenever someone is putting up a house or building, whenever somebody is going to create a community they should be well aware that our relationship with the environment is an important part of that development.”
Also speaking at the Event, Facilitator and Biosphere Reserve Consultant, June Marie Mow Robinson indicated that there is a clear distinction between a Biosphere Reserve and a Protected Area. “If you do not have people living in a Biosphere Reserve, it is not a biosphere reserve. People have to be there; otherwise we could not show that it is possible to have the balance between people and nature. It is an obligation to have people living in such a Reserve.”
The concept of biosphere reserves was initiated through a United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) Task Force in 1974. Today, there are over 564 reserves in 109 countries. UNESCO was represented at the workshop by Dr. Maria Smith, Programme Manager, Jamaica National’s Commission for UNESCO.
Several organizations including the Office of the Prime Minister, Island Special Constabulary Force, Forestry Department, The National Environment and Planning Agency, the National Housing Trust, National Land Agency, Ministry of Energy and Mining, Tourism Product Development Company and several teachers from and high and primary schools participated in the Conference.
The Corporation has been mandated by the Government of Jamaica to provide the leadership in the creation of biosphere reserves in the island. The priority areas for the UDC currently are Portland Bight, Caymanas Estates and Ocho Rios.
The UDC in recognition of the importance of protecting and conserving the environment, as part of its mandate adheres to high environmental standards in the implementation of its projects and programmes and plays a key role in the preservation of the Jamaican environment. As a result, the Corporation has a Natural Resource Management and Environmental Planning Department (NRMEP) dedicated to affairs of the environment. This Department implements programmes such as Environmental Monitoring, Ecological Assessments, Environmental Audits, Protected Area Management and Public Education Programmes in UDC project areas.