As Jamaica’s Famous Blue Mountains Finally Inscribed on World Heritage List, Joe Issa Says Monetization and Protection Must be a Priority for Authorities

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Jamaican businessman and environmental activist, Joe Issa, says in an interview that now the country’s iconic Blue Mountains region is finally inscribed on UNESCO’s World Heritage List, the authorities must begin in earnest to monetize and protect the site.

Joseph John Issa

I believe that the listing of our iconic Blue Mountains region is a significant development that will boost ecotourism

Jamaican businessman and environmental activist, Joseph John Issa, says in an interview that now the country’s iconic Blue Mountains region is finally inscribed on UNESCO’s World Heritage List, the authorities must begin in earnest to monetize and protect the site.

Issa was responding to a December 14, 2015 article in the North Coast Times titled “Joe Issa Hails Inscription of Blue and John Crow Mountains on World Heritage Site, Says It’s Great News for Jamaica’s Tourism Product, Maroon Community”, at http://www.northcoasttimesja.com/?p=3452.

In the article Issa, who is Executive Chairman of Cool Corporation welcomed the inscription of The Blue and John Crow Mountains National Park (BJCMNP) on the World Heritage List “as a major, long-overdue development that will go a long way in enhancing the country’s tourism product and business development in the Maroon Community.”

“I believe that the listing of our iconic Blue Mountains region is a significant development that will boost ecotourism; therefore, having waited so long for this to happen we must waste no time in beginning to monetize and protect the site for the benefit of the country and the Maroons who have lived there for hundreds of years”, Issa says in the interview.

Comparing the importance of the site with Jamaica’s National Heroes which include Marcus Garvey, Issa said that the Park “is a formidable Jamaican heritage, harboring the country’s rich and diverse flora and fauna and its major watersheds,” and that its listing on UNESCO’s World Heritage Sites “will bring it to the attention of nature lovers around the world, who form a large and growing segment of visitors to the island.”

Issa stated that it “will also bring business to the Maroons, who have lived in the area for several centuries,” noting that “it ranks among the world’s most popular sites like the Great Wall of China,” a view that is shared by the government’s news agency, Jamaica Information Service (JIS), which placed it among iconic sites like The Pyramids of Giza in Egypt, The Taj Mahal of India, Acropolis of Athens, Great Barrier Reef of Australia and the Pitons of St. Lucia.

“We must give credit to Lisa Hanna who has led the charge from nomination of the site to acceptance by UNESCO some four years later”, says Issa, noting that “it has not come a day too late.”

According to an April 18, 2013 article in the Jamaica Observer titled “Jamaica pushing for Blue Mountains on World Heritage list” at http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Jamaica-pushing-for-Blue-Mountains-on-World-Heritage-list, the site “is one of the country’s first and most important protected areas” and was nominated for inscription in 2011.

In the article Hanna, who is Minister of Youth and Culture said the administration is “very keen on ensuring that we get a world heritage site”, while bemoaning that despite Jamaica’s rich cultural heritage “we still do not have a world heritage site here,” pointing out that “we owe it to all of those who have gone before us to make sure that is a reality…Being named on the list will bring positive spin-offs for the country, especially in the area of eco-tourism,” Hanna said.

The importance of the BJCMNP, according to the article, comes from the fact that the area covers 78,200 hectares and spans sections of the parishes of Portland, St Thomas, St Andrew, and South-East St Mary.

It contains the largest area of primary natural forest remaining in Jamaica, and is high in biodiversity, with about 40 per cent of the plants and animals found there are either endemic to Jamaica, or are found only in the park’s ecosystems.

The article said that the site boasts the highest point in Jamaica – the Blue Mountain Peak (2,256 metres); the country’s most important watersheds, which provide water for half of the island; it has many areas of natural beauty and historic importance; and is legally protected, both as a Forest Reserve (since 1950) and a National Park (since 1993).

It said “the World Heritage List includes some 812 properties forming part of the cultural and natural heritage which the World Heritage Committee considers as having outstanding universal value,” which include 628 cultural, 160 natural and 24 mixed properties, and that the BJCMNP is in the mixed group.

“I look forward with great anticipation to the development of this most important landmark area, which I believe holds a lot of potential in changing the face of Jamaica’s tourism product and the livelihood of the Maroons who have and will continue to occupy that land for centuries to come,” Issa said.

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