EMA head: Death threats won’t stop our efforts
Chairman of the Environmental Management Authority (EMA) Dr Allan Bachan has said death threats will not stop the EMA’s commitment to clamp down on illegal quarrying operations.
Bachan said one of the strategies the board was pursuing was to increase the capacity of the Environmental Compliance Unit and the Environmental Police Unit with respect to numbers of officers and vehicles and equipment required to do its job effectively. The board, he said, was also considering creative strategies to increase the number of compliance officers through State agencies and Regional Corporations as allowed for under the EMA Act.
“This would facilitate the increase in numbers, space provision would be facilitated and the EMA’s span of reach can be throughout the country,” said Bachan.
“Monitoring these illegal quarries has proven to be very difficult, and, in some cases, a security risk for EMA officers and we need to start thinking outside the box. The EMA will continue to work with the various State agencies and I reiterated the EMA’s commitment to ensure the protection of the environment and upholding the rule of law under its mandate,” he told the Sunday Express in an interview.
Bachan said the board was also pursuing a strategy that had at its cornerstone a four-pronged approach to environmental protection.
Bachan said the strengthening of the administrative and technical capacities of the EMA was especially important in order to regulate the sectors to achieve sustainable development. He said analyses were being undertaken to identify further requirements for effective environmental management of the specific industry as well as mechanisms for achieving its mandate.
Bachan said the public was the most affected segment of the consequences of illegal environmental actions. “Indeed, it is arguable that the environment is a public good and therefore the public should ideally be assured of responses to negative actions that would affect the environment. These issues should no longer be seen as a discountable factor in assessing environmental risks but that of an urgent and uncompromisable one,” he said.
Bachan noted that quarrying in Trinidad and Tobago is addressed under the Certificate of Environmental Clearance (CEC) Rules 2001 and the CEC (Designated Activities) Order (as amended) of the Environmental Management (EM) Act 2000 Chapter 35:05. He said in 2007 and 2008, Activities 8 and 23 respectively of the CEC (Designated Activities) (Amendment) Order were amended in that quarries of an area of less than 150 acres were removed from the list of designated activities.
However, he pointed out that in 2012 this was redirected to the Environmental Management Authority (EMA), when a Ministerial Order was signed to place quarries of all sizes back under the jurisdiction of the EMA.
Bachan said this new mandate provided the EMA with the necessary legal framework to address quarrying and mining operations in the country. One such matter involves a report on illegal quarrying at Runway Drive, Mausica Road, Mausica. Bachan said in May 2009, the EMA first received complaints of elevated dust emanating from said area, which was potentially linked to illegal mining operations.
The removal of Activities eight and 23 prohibited the EMA from conducting an investigation into the matter at the time of the report.
Bachan said the Water Resources Agency (WRA) and the Water and Sewerage Authority (WASA) encountered illegal mining activities along the Lower Mausica River, which negatively affected the water quality of the river’s lower regions and has impacted on the national water supply.
He said in 2012, the EMA and the Energy Ministry partnered to crack down on illegal quarrying which resulted in environmental degradation and destruction to watershed areas in areas such as Matura and Valencia.
Bachan referred to the recent clampdown on the illegal quarrying operation at Runway Drive, Mausica.
“At this visit, the EMA found an illegal wash plant as well as illegal quarrying on adjacent state lands. Two operators were subsequently charged by the Environmental Police Unit (EPU) and equipment was seized and taken to the Cumuto Army Base,” said Bachan.
He said the wash plant has since been shut down.
“This action and other recent actions are not without consequences as quarrying is a thriving business,” said Bachan.