RELEASE: New Website Highlights Proposed Development Projects in Jamaica to Give People Better Access to Information and Improve Public Participation
Jamaicans will have greater access to information about infrastructure developments and their environmental impact in the form of Development Alert!, a new interactive website created by the Jamaica Environment Trust (JET), World Resources Institute (WRI), and The Access Initiative with support from software developers Blue Raster, USA.
The Development Alert! website uses an interactive GIS map of Jamaica to provide easy-to-understand information about recently approved or proposed highways, housing projects, hotel developments, energy projects, water abstraction, forest removal, and mining that are likely to have significant health, environmental, social or cultural impacts. The map also shows Jamaica’s protected areas. This information gives citizens and communities the opportunity to influence key decision-making through access to better information.
“Development Alert! sets the stage for new ways to formally engage in the public review process for developments using the latest web technology”, says Carole Excell, Project Director of the Access Initiative, World Resources Institute. “People can now see the development projects that affect their lives, which will encourage them to get involved and have a voice. This will support more inclusive decision-making”
Development Alert! was created with information obtained from the Government of Jamaica using the Access to Information Act. The website allows citizens to learn about projects before a decision is made to approve or reject them. The dates of public meetings to discuss proposed projects are also on the site as well as contact information for the relevant government institutions who can be contacted with questions, comments and concerns. The site also allows users to sign up for e-mail alerts on specific locations or projects.
For example, Development Alert! includes detailed information on the controversial Goat Island port, including information on the current geo-technical survey for the transhipment port and copies of all associated documents.
“We anticipate that the website will reduce secrecy in decisions made about the use of natural resources and stimulate greater public discourse and participation in development issues”, says Danielle Andrade, Legal Director of Jamaica Environment Trust.
While JET will maintain Development Alert! and update it as new projects come on stream, Development Alert! has been conceptualised as a people’s platform: where anyone can upload information on projects that they see happening in their neighbourhood. This will also help bring attention to illegal projects that may have started without the approval from the relevant authorities.
The website will be launched today November 20, 2014 at Terra Nova 6:30 pm, Kingston, Jamaica.
Mrs Danielle Andrade-Goffe
Jamaica Environment Trust
Mrs. Carole Excell
World Resources Institute