Monday, January 22, 2018

EMA dragging its feet


HEAVY DUTY WORK: Excavators carry out road-widening works along the Cumaca Road in Valencia last Wednesday.

(BI) Feedloader User

Environmental group Fishermen and Friends of the Sea (FFOS) is calling on the Environmental Management Authority (EMA) to investigate what they claim to be illegal road works in Cumaca.

Approximately nine kilometres of the Cumaca Road is currently being widened by the St Alban's Sand and Gravel Company Ltd, which is operating a quarry in the rural community.

A nine-kilometre stretch from the Valencia Main Road, the quarry was recently put up for bidding by the Ministry of Works and Transport. The bid was won by the St Alban's Sand and Gravel Company Ltd, which is now embarking on a road widening project in order for its heavy machinery to access the area.

But FFOS secretary, Gary Aboud, who owns an estate in the area, fears that the road works will cause many landslides during the current rainy season.

"Illegal, you can't just bulldoze a State road," he told the Express during a visit to the area last week.

"The mountain is made of shale and the shale breaks into pieces and collapses, so there are many landslides which will occur on that road over the next couple of years because of the hill being cut."

Aboud contacted the EMA to report the matter and learnt that a Certificate of Environmental Clearance for the road works was not issued. He believes the EMA is dragging its feet in responding to the matter.

"From the time of reporting the act, the excavation has travelled from the 3 1/2 km to 7 1/2 km mark," he said.

"They cut an initial 10 feet now they cutting an additional 20 feet. Why isn't the EMA acting?"

During the Express visit to Cumaca, miles of excavated hillside could be seen. Silt from the road widening process was also scattered throughout the Turere River, which flows into the North Oropouche Watershed.

The watershed, according to Government publications, is one of the cleanest in the country.

Ryan Mathews, a 24-year-old farmer living in the village, explained that the Cumaca Road was the only route for vehicular passage in and out of the village—a route which Ryan has to travel in order to take his produce to Port of Spain Central Market.

He said: "When the rain falling, the vehicle very hard to come out. If you don't have a 4x4 and you have a car is trouble, because you will just keep sliding and sliding."

Another villager, Keith Trancoso, who uses his Land Rover to transport passengers in and out the area, invited the widening works, but he does not think it is being done in a legal way.

"A person has to pay $150 a head to come out of here because you see the condition of the road and how the excavator mashing up the road and thing," he said.

While villagers without 4x4s pay about $150 per person in passage to and from the Valencia Main Road, farmers can pay anywhere between $300 to $400 a load to their destinations.