Environment and Water Resources Minister Ganga Singh on Thursday spoke at the post Cabinet press conference, at the Prime Minister's Office, St Clair, which he outlined decisions taken by Cabinet related to his ministry. The following is Minister Ganga's statement :
The People’s Partnership Government is continuing to pay specific attention on ensuring the sustainable management of the environment. Effort is being focused on strengthening and promoting activities in nature conservation, in particular, the conservation of the country’s bio-diversity regimes. This is in support of the policy directive as articulated in the People’s Partnership Manifesto.
I wish to brief you on some the latest efforts in accomplishing the sustainable management of the environment - Establishment of a National Sea Turtle Task Force, the Approval of a Global Environment Facility Project – “Improving Forest and Protected Areas Management in Trinidad and Tobago”. I will also share information on proposed improvement works for the Port of Spain lighthouse/cove area and an update on flood alleviation/drainage works planned for Port of Spain.
Establishment of a National Sea Turtle Task Force
Trinidad and Tobago is a productive nesting and foraging habitat for marine turtle species. The green turtle, leatherback and hawksbill are the major sea turtle species that nest on the country’s beaches. Though rare, the loggerhead and the olive ridley also nest in Trinidad and Tobago. In Trinidad, nesting activities have been reported annually on all the beaches from Guayaguayare, along the eastern and northern coastline to Maracas Beach. The major nesting beaches are Grand Riviere, Matura, Fishing Pond and Grand Tacaribe. In Tobago, the population of nesting turtles is small. The important nesting beaches in Tobago are Grand Courland Bay or Turtle Beach, Plymouth and Mt. Irvine beaches, with the Leatherback turtle being the major nesting species.
On a global scale, population trends of the five (5) sea turtle species occurring in Trinidad and Tobago indicate that they are becoming critically endangered. The International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) has listed specifically the leatherback and hawksbill species as critically endangered. Notwithstanding the fact that the status of the global populations of green turtles, olive ridley and loggerhead are better than the other two species, the population is in decline with an estimated reduction of over 50% of the global population in less than
three generations. The International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) has listed these species as endangered.
One of the causes of the decline in the global population of marine turtles is the demand of turtle products (meat and shells). In order to curb this demand, the international trade in marine turtles including products and parts have been highly restricted by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES). This classification requires that trade in the particular species and its products is subject to strict regulation by ratifying states which includes Trinidad and Tobago. Under this regime international trade for primarily commercial purposes is forbidden. CITES therefore has the effect of reducing the commercial exploitation of sea turtles.
I would like to highlight that populations of these marine turtle species occurring on the beaches of Trinidad and Tobago are affected by several threats. These include habitat degradation or loss from either naturally occurring coastal erosion or anthropogenic through the sand mining or removal of coastal vegetation for built development. Turtle populations are also negatively affected by untargeted fishing methods resulting in incidental mortality and poaching. In addition, pollution adversely affects turtle habitats by making beaches unsuitable for nesting particularly the presence of noise and light pollution as well as solid
waste littering beaches. Turtle foraging habitats have also been impacted by chemical and oil spills which kills reefs and sea grass beds.
The main legal instruments which provides protection for sea turtles in Trinidad and Tobago are the Conservation of Wildlife ACT (67:01) and the Fisheries Act (67:51) and its amendment “The Protection of Turtles and Turtle eggs (Amendment) Regulations”. The five (5) species of marine turtles known to occur in Trinidad and Tobago have also been declared as Environmentally Sensitive Species (ESS) under Rule 3 (1) of the ESS Rules.
In addition to the legislative framework, a Sea Turtle Recovery Plan (STRAP) has been developed for Trinidad and Tobago through national stakeholder–led processes by the Wider Caribbean Sea Turtle Conservation Network (WIDECAST) in 2010. The Sea Turtle Recovery Plan (STRAP) outlines mechanisms for sea turtle management and conservation, specifically through strengthening the regulatory and enforcement framework, augmenting the National Biodiversity Strategy Action Plan (NBSAP) and implementing Trinidad and Tobago’s obligations under various international treaties.
Members of the Media, it is to be noted that given the multiplicity of managers and stakeholders involved in sea turtle research and conservation activities, there is need for the establishment of a
mechanism for a more coordinated approach to the overseeing and implementation of these activities.
A recommendation was made in the Sea Turtle Recovery Plan (STRAP) for the establishment of a National Sea Turtle Task Force to oversee all activities as they relate to the conservation and management of sea turtles.
As a result of this Cabinet has established a National Sea Turtle Task Force with the following terms of reference:
a. Overseeing and coordinating sea turtle research and conservation activities
b. Working closely with all relevant sectors to ensure that all priorities are met and that the activities of all participating groups are integrated toward the national goal of turtle conservation
c. Implementing the Sea Turtle Recovery Plan (STRAP)
d. Developing a Sea Turtle Management Plan
The representatives on this Task Force include the following agencies:
? The Environmental Management Authority
? Forestry Division
? Fisheries Division
? Town and Country Planning Division
? Institute of Marine Affairs
? The Ministry of Energy and Energy Affairs
? Ministry of Tourism
? Tobago House of Assembly
? Turtle Village Trust
? The University of the West Indies
? The Tourism Development Company
? The Police Service of Trinidad and Tobago
? Wider Caribbean Sea Turtle Conservation Network (WIDECAST)
Approval of a Global Environment Facility Project – “Improving Forest and Protected Areas Management in Trinidad and Tobago”.
The Ministry of the Environment and Water Resources in its capacity as the Political Focal Point for the Global Environmental Facility (GEF) and National Focal Point for the Convention on Biological Diversity applied for financial assistance from the Global Environmental Facility (GEF) to modernize the current legislative and administrative framework for forest and protected areas management in Trinidad and Tobago. This Global Environmental Facility (GEF) Project entitled “Improving Forest and Protected Areas Management in Trinidad and
Tobago” has been approved by the Global Environmental Facility (GEF) Secretariat.
Under the Project, Trinidad and Tobago will receive US$2.7 million in grant funding from the GEF over the next four years. The project was developed in collaboration with a GEF Implementing Agency, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), and involved a series of multi-stakeholder consultations.
The current administrative and legislative system for forest and protected areas management has remained substantively unchanged from that established by the Colonial Government, some 100 years ago. The Government of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago has initiated policy reforms needed to prevent biodiversity loss and increase the management effectiveness of forest and protected area. As a result of this initiative, new Protected Areas (PA) and Forest Policies were adopted by the Government in 2011. Additionally, a new National Wildlife Policy was approved by the Government in 2013 which will complement policy interventions driven by the Forest and Protected Areas (PA) policies.
The Green Fund has already begun funding Protected Areas (PA) related activities through State Agencies and NGOs/CBOs while the European
Union is providing budget support assistance for the implementation of both the Forest and Protected Areas Policies.
As per the new Protected Areas (PA) policy, transitioning the Forestry Division (the agency responsible for managing forests and protected areas) to an autonomous authority is underway. The Ministry has engaged a change management consultant that is currently developing a transitional plan for the transformation of the Forestry Division into the new Forest and Protected Areas Management Authority.
However, attention is now needed to develop a Protected Areas (PAs) system and the financial mechanisms needed to support it. Also, enhancing management effectiveness, institutionalising new financing strategies and developing management arrangements in pilot Protected Areas (PAs), would provide the country with good models to replicate. This project is thus timely and crucial to support the Government to improve Protected Areas (PAs) management.
The project has four technical components which are:
? Improvements to the legal and institutional arrangements for Protected Area (PA) management;
? Improvements to infrastructure for biodiversity conservation and forest restoration;
? Development and testing of sustainable financing system and
? Monitoring and evaluation and information dissemination
The expected key outcomes are:
? Protected Area (PA) system covering at least 214,000 ha consolidated to ensure adequate coverage of all important ecosystems and 98,452 ha formally designated as new PAs.
? Management of six Protected Areas (PAs) improved and biodiversity conservation of unprotected species is strengthened at these sites. The selected six model Protected Areas (PAs) are –
o Caroni Swamp
o Nariva Swamp
o Matura Forest
o Trinity Hills
o Main Ridge
o North-East Tobago Marine Protected Area
? Resources, Protected Area (PA) staff capacity and infrastructure needed for effective Protected Areas (PAs) management are built in six Protected Areas (PAs).
? A sustainable financing system is developed for long-term management of the Protected Area (PA) system and a Forestry and Protected Areas (FPA) Fund established.
? New revenue generating mechanisms reduce annual funding gap by at least USD 100,000 for management of Protected Areas (PA) system.
? Results-based management and effective communication to stakeholders that ensures effective delivery of the outputs and sustainability of the project outcomes.
From the project, the following are the expected tangible outputs:
? Draft National legislation for establishing and managing Protected Areas (PAs) Systematic biodiversity monitoring and site-specific interventions to address threats
? Management plans for six new Protected Areas (PAs) User-fee system operating in two Protected Areas (PAs)
Ladies and Gentlemen, it is to be noted that these interventions will address the current barriers to sustainable Protected Areas (PAs) management and consequently are likely to improve the delivery of sustainable national environmental benefits. They will also contribute to improving the livelihood of many stakeholders through provision of sustainable goods and services and the multiple benefits of biodiversity-friendly income generating opportunities developed in the Protected Areas (PAs).
Upgrade of Port of Spain lighthouse/cove area
The third decision that Cabinet took today with respect to the Ministry of the Environment and Water Resources pertains to the cove located in the vicinity of the Port of Spain lighthouse, one of the main entrances into the city. This area is at present very unsightly, has a heavy accumulation of silt and debris and is an eyesore, particularly at low
tide. The last occasion when improvement works were conducted to improve the aesthetics of this area was in the mid 1980’s approximately twenty years ago. Since then, there has been significant deterioration in the condition of the area. It is therefore proposed that the following activities be undertaken to improve the aesthetics of the area:
1) Removal of the accumulated sludge through desilting
2) Stone protection using blue limestone boulders
3) Landscaping of the area using suitable plant species
These proposed activities will have the added benefit of alleviating the flooding in the South Quay area by allowing greater run-off to the sea.
Update on Flood Alleviation and Drainage in Port of Spain
Cabinet has agreed to the approach for the design bid build for Component One (Infrastructural Works) of the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) loan which aims to alleviate flooding and enhance drainage in the Port of Spain Central Business District with initial focus on the South Quay area. This will help to alleviate flooding in Port of Spain and will be done in collaboration with a series of stakeholders including the Downtown Owners and Merchants Association, the Port of Spain City Corporation, Drainage Division and NIDCO. Yesterday, the Port of Spain City Corporation signed a
Memorandum of Understanding for collaboration with the Ministry of the Environment and Water Resources to deal with the flooding in Port of Spain and to collaborate with respect to this loan. So, this is an important development; we expect the prequalification process for contractors and consultants to be done in September and then in accordance with IDB procurement rules, we will proceed to acquire the contractors and/or consultants to deal with this area of flooding in Component One of the IDB Loan.