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T&T’s ugly rainbow

Far too long ignored by the authorities, conditions in the Gulf of Paria have given new and highly repugnant meaning to the old depiction of T&T as a “rainbow” country. The “rainbow” effect suddenly giving rise to new public and official alarm comes from the tell-tale rings of spilled oil and other toxic substance around the hulks of vessels left rotting in the waters of the Gulf of Paria.
The problem of these derelicts, which pose serious dangers to shipping, boating, marine and human life, has defied successive administrations going back several decades.
Seven years ago, concern escalated to a new high when the Express reported on the pollution and dangers created. At the time, various authorities were prompted to express their own alarm, only for it to peter out into the usual non-action.
In 2007, then works minister Colm Imbert identified the responsibility as belonging to the Harbour Master but felt there was need to revisit the Shipping Act to control the dumping and abandoning of vessels that were no longer sea-worthy or which had fallen victim to the financial woes of the owners. That was that.
Now, it is the turn of yet another government minister to awaken from his slumber and recognise the dangers posed by these shipwrecks to shipping, boating, marine and human life, now that it has again been brought to his attention by the Express.
“Someone has fallen asleep at the rudder,” Environment Minister Ganga Singh observed when marine environmental and aesthetic horror gained his attention this week.

We have to question the seriousness of any government that cannot recognise the responsibility to regulate action that is clearly against the public interest. These derelicts mock our pretensions to environmental protection, public safety and development.
While the Ministry of Planning, for example, is pushing ahead with its agenda for the development of Chaguaramas and the controversial Invaders’ Bay area, just a few metres out in the Gulf of Paria are these ghosts of vessels past, standing as reminders of our callous attitude to our own waters, public safety and environmental aesthetics. Do we have to wait for a tragedy to occur before we act?
Several years ago, then prime minister Dr Eric Williams threatened to dump his phone in the Gulf of Paria in frustration over the poor service provide by state-owned Telco, TSTT’s predecessor. The sub-text of his view of the Gulf as a place into which derelicts are dumped went unchallenged but it does convey the national attitude to the environment as a dumping ground.
A lot has changed since Dr Williams’s time. Today, we know a lot more about the impact of pollution on our individual lives and the importance of looking after our natural resources so that they can look after us over the longest possible time.
We no longer have the excuse of ignorance. The Gulf of Paria is a national resource and treasure. It needs our attention and respect.
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