IN the face of legal action being initiated, the Environmental Management Agency (EMA) on Tuesday agreed to withdraw a Certificate of Environmental Clearance (CEC) which was granted earlier this year to the owner of a poultry farm in Piparo.
Piparo resident Dennis Sinanan and lobby group Fishermen and Friends of the Sea (FFOS) had applied on November 1 for leave to seek judicial review of the EMA's decision to permit the establishment of a poultry farm at Thomas Ross Road. The farm is owned by Rolly Jitta.
The application was scheduled to be heard before Justice Ronnie Boodoosingh in the Port of Spain High Court yesterday. When the matter was called sometime after 2 p.m., however, attorney Dr Rajendra Ramlogan who, appeared for the aggrieved parties, told Boodoosingh the EMA had given a commitment in writing to withdraw the approval granted to Jitta on May 29.
The EMA's attorney, Nalini Sharma, confirmed this. The letter was signed by EMA managing director and chief executive officer Dr Joth Singh. The EMA also agreed to pay the legal costs of the judicial review application.
Sinanan and FFOS contended, among other things, that the EMA acted illegally, erred in law, abdicated its statutory duties, in breach of the principles of natural justice and failed to take into account material considerations.
They allege that Jitta did not provide any evidential proof of consultation with residents in close proximity to the proposed farm contrary to the request for further information.
According to the application filed in the Port of Spain High Court, on or about June 22, 2012, Sinanan and Sylvia Sinanan, Sybil Francis, Carmen Rojas, Majella Knutt Piper, Samuel Loutan, Lincoln Sinanan, Isaac Garraway and Stephen Hansraj observed clearing works being undertaken by Jitta at Thomas Road, Piparo. They say it was at that time they learned of Jitta's intention to establish a poultry farm and sought legal advice on the legality of the construction of the farm.
A pre-action protocol letter, dated August 7, was sent to the EMA, requesting the CEC be set aside.
FFOS secretary Gary Aboud told the Express the decision of the EMA to revoke the CEC was a victory for all citizens of Trinidad and Tobago who feel powerless in situations where they have to contend with the stench emanating from poultry and pig farms in residential areas.
"It is significant to the extent that the EMA must be more careful in granting CECs without due consideration for the public welfare," Aboud said.
Earlier this year, resident Ramona Hansraj told the Express the affected residents had taken their complaint to every relevant authority, including MP Nela Khan, with no results.
Hansraj said the EMA, in the past year, acknowledged that the farm owners were in violation of a number of rules with regard to the setting up of poultry and livestock in the neighbourhood, but the notices of violation served on the farmers appeared to have been ignored.
—with reporting by Kim Boodram