Rapid growth and unplanned development have had a devastating effect upon Negril’s ecosystems. Norman Manley Boulevard cuts straight through what was originally swampland, jet skis and anchors have played havoc with the reefs, and mangrove-felling has allowed the sea and hurricanes to slim down the precious beach and smother portions of reef with earth and sand that the trees once filtered. A 2012 study demonstrated that the shoreline at Long Bay has retreated on average 23cm every year since 1971 – a trend expected to accelerate with sea-level rise.
The population explosion meant that houses built on captured land lacked water supplies, garbage removal and sanitation facilities until relatively recently. Now, thankfully, Negril has a US$15-million water treatment plant and reservoir, which has minimized the amount of untreated sewage flowing into the sea, although link-up is still proving beyond some people’s means.
With healthy support from Negril citizens, the Negril Coral Reef Preservation Society (NCRPS) has placed 45 mooring buoys at key points on the reefs and successfully lobbied for marine park status like that afforded the Montego Bay waters (and jpat-jm.net); it was granted in March 1998. The Negril Environmental Protection Trust (NEPT; nept.wordpress.com) has a wider brief, declaring 128 square kilometres from Green Island to Salmon Point as the Negril Watershed Environmental Protection Area, with action required on all fronts: from reforestation projects to combating the burning of hardwoods for saleable charcoal, and to rescuing sea turtles deprived of their beach nesting grounds. An environmental education programme in local schools is also under way in collaboration with the Negril Education Environment Trust (neetja.com). Among other successes, NEPT also engaged larger hotels in the Blue Flag Campaign, which provides beach marine certification to those active on beach erosion and effective coastal management – not an easy task. To find out more about these groups, visit their Marine Park office next to the main craft market (t957 3736).