The first permanent boundary monument, delineating the area to be declared protected as the Cockpit Country has been installed by the Most Honourable Prime Minister and Ambassador Malgorzata Wasilewska, the Head of the European Union Delegation to Jamaica.
The boundary marker was planted during a tour of a section of the boundary in Tyre, Trelawny lead by the Forestry Department, which included MHPM Holness, Ambassador Wasilewska, the Ambassadors/High Commissioners from four (4) European Union member countries, Hon. Daryl Vaz, Minister without Portfolio in the Ministry of Economic Growth and Job Creation, and representatives from other key state entities. The tour was held on June 5.
During a brief ceremony before the permanent boundary planting, the Prime Minister again reiterated the Government's commitment to protecting the valuable assets within this area. “There is a certain level of protection. But you want to have explicit protection particularly as it relates to where can be mined and where cannot be mined. Government's commitment and declaration still stands. There will be no mining in the area designated as the Cockpit Country protected area,” said Prime Minister Holness at the ceremony.
Following the laying of the permanent boundary monument, the group was guided through the ground truthing process for a section of the boundary. During this part of the exercise, the contingent used GPS units to assist with verifying the boundary on ground as seen on the map. Once the boundary is confirmed temporary markers were installed by the team using stakes.
In November 2017, the MHPM announced a new boundary for the area to be protected as the Cockpit Country. The Forestry Department was tasked with the responsibility for conducting the ground truthing exercise to verify the proposed boundary. “This process commenced in the last financial year (2018/2019) and is estimated to be completed in 2020. The ground truthing process is being funded under the European Union's Budget Support Programme for the forest sector, which started in June 2018,” Prime Minister Holness said.
The European Union, under its 11th European Development Fund, has committed $16.5 billion Euros over a four year period to the sector. The majority of this amount ($14 million Euros), will be used to assist in the implementation of the National Forest Management and Conservation Plan (NFMCP) 2016-2026.
The Boundary Verification process explained
The newly announced area to be declared protected in the Cockpit Country, as known by many, is a boundary drawn on a map after several consultations with stakeholders nationally that is to be established on the ground.
The first activity in this boundary establishment initiative is the process of ground truthing. This is, essentially, the process of verifying that what is on map is also what is on ground. It is, therefore, important that we identify and traverse the lines depicted as the boundary on map, on the ground.
In the process of verification, once the location as seen on the map is found on ground, it is observed and stored on a data collection device. The proposed line is then manipulated to reflect, as best as possible, what is on ground, i.e. the observed data.
Essentially, for the process of boundary establishment for this purpose, there are three major steps to follow:
1. Reconnaissance (all preliminary survey or research) and Ground Truthing (on ground verification)
2. Marking: Boundary markers are used to show the confines or the extent of a boundary. In the preliminary stages of this boundary establishment, wooden stakes were used as temporary markers to mark the proposed points along the proposed boundary. These stakes will then be replaced by concrete monuments; a permanent and well-defined form of marking.
3. Following this process is the Derivation of the coordinates of the monuments by way of utilizing varying survey techniques and instrumentation. (Theodolite Survey: Traversing; GNSS Survey: RTK, VRS, etc). This is the actual survey.
· The land cover of the area to be protected as the Cockpit Country represents 51% of the remaining primary or Closed Broadleaf forest in Jamaica
· It is home to over 1,500 species of plants and animals, some of which are endemic to the area
· The proposed area to be protected will cover just under 76,000 hectares, spanning 5 parishes
· The majority of it is already protected as Forest Reserve
· The Cockpit Country supplies Jamaica with approximately 40% of its fresh water and the area to be protected supplies eight (8) rivers