Monday, January 22, 2018

Quarries are hurting our environment


As we write unsustainable and loosely regulated quarrying continues to hurt our twin nation. Quarrying is weakening our nation's water security as the rivers become silted and the aquifers are not replenished.

The impact of quarrying on our environment has also become more visible, particularly over the past five years. Examples include damage to the Corosal Road, Whiteland Quarry by the heavy equipment used by TCL in September 2010; the collapse of Trainline Road, Carapo in May 2010; complaints of dust problems and road damage from trucks transporting dust from a quarry in the vicinity of Phoenix Park and Windsor Park, California in April 2011; visual scarring and damage to the sole access road by heavy equipment in the Heights of Guanapo in September 2010 and devastating floods affecting areas in western Trinidad, such as Maraval and Cocorite in November 2011.

Within recent weeks, the award of a 209-acre block of State land to a private company at Pine Road, Matura, for a sand and gravel quarry, has become public knowledge. The proposed quarry falls within the Melajo Forest Reserve, an area of virgin forest.

There is little legislative support for the regulation of quarrying in T&T. In the past, the EMA regulated, approved and issued permits for the quarry industry. However, in 2007, an amendment to the Certificate of Environmental Clearance (Designated Activities) Order, 2001 exempted quarries less than 150 acres from requiring approval from the EMA. Therefore, no oversight is required for land clearing or quarry operations on less than 150 acres of land, severely diminishing the powers of the EMA.

Furthermore the Quarry Policy White Paper for T&T, which was developed since 2007, still has not formally been approved. In this regard, we are calling on the Government to take immediate action to regulate quarrying through the amendment of the Certificate of Environmental Clearance (Designated Activities) Order, 2001 to include all quarries and the approval of a Quarry Policy for T&T.

Fishermen and Friends of the Sea recognises the need for research into the impacts of quarrying on our natural environment. As such, we have commissioned the preparation of a report entitled "Quarrying in Trinidad and Tobago: The environmental impacts of quarrying with a focus on freshwater impacts".

This report will be available on our website, www.ffostt.com, in the upcoming weeks and will also be distributed to key stakeholders. In this regard, we are attempting to highlight the impacts of quarrying on our freshwater ecosystems and the critical need for a proper regulatory regime to manage all quarries, regardless of size.

Urgent action is required if we are to secure and stop the destruction of our aquifers and save our rivers.

Terrence Beddoe

Gary Aboud

Fishermen and Friends of the Sea