A study which will pave the way for one of St Lucia’s most treasured landmarks to be recognized as a world heritage site is finally underway.
On Wednesday, Dr James Fletcher unveiled plans to undertake the Limits of Acceptable Change study, for the Piton Management Area. The move in response to the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization’s threats to categorize the PMA as endangered.
“This last study is a commitment that was given to UNESCO as part of our management of the Piton Management area, which as you know, is a World Heritage Site,” said Fletcher.
“When I attended the last World Heritage Committee meeting in St Petersburg, Russia last year the issue of St Lucia’s status as a World Heritage Site was up for discussio, as was the possibility of St Lucia’s PMA being danger listed. One of the commitments that was given, in fact the primary commitment that was given was for the undertaking of this LAC study which was promised sometime before and had not been done.” United Kingdom-based environmental consulting firm, Landmark Practice, was selected from three shortlisted firms to guide the intensive project. The company is well experienced in studies of this nature having completed similar work in other countries. According to managing director Nick Roberts: “We have worked on the Pitons before, ten years ago when we undertook the landscape analysis in preparation for the application to UNESCO for World Heritage Site status. We have a fair bit of familiarity with the Piton Management area. We are looking forward to getting involved in the project.”
Chris McDermott, the company’s principal landscape architect outlined the process to be undertaken to ensure the study is extensive and exhaustive.
He said: “I think the first thing we need to do is look at the current outlined contents of all the applications that have been put in for development and establish what the baseline is; review all those and look at all the social and economic issues related to the area; consult with everybody, take views of all the people, locals, the developers, and then once we’ve gathered all this baseline information we then need to work towards developing a more detailed land use plan.”
Why this information not compiled during their previous visit to the island? McDermott explained that their purpose had simply been to identify the assets of the site for World Heritage nomination, not necessarily to make recommendations. This time he believes
a more thorough analysis is in order.
Landmark plans to make the project all-inclusive, gleaning input from various sources including The National Trust, local workers, vacationers, even the youth that they see as “the future gatekeepers of the area.”
It is also hoped that the study will clear up some of the controversy that has surrounded the PMA area, including the construction of luxury resorts in what the residents consider to be sacred locations.
“There are some developments that have had some level of controversy,” Dr Fletcher said. “What the LAC study will also do is tell us whether that controversy was warranted. Because it may be that some of the things we felt we should not have done were acceptable and some of what we thought were benign activities pose an even greater threat.”
The report is expected to be completed by August at a cost of approximately
EC 250, 000 dollars.