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Halt work on cement factory

Cunupia residents call on PM:

By Keino Swamber keino.swamber@trinidadexpress.com

PRIME Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar is being called upon to intervene and bring to a halt the operations of a cement factory being constructed in Cunupia.

The plant is being built by Motilal Ramhit & Sons/RPN Enterprises Ltd at Chin Chin Road, Cunupia, a short distance away from the Cunupia Government Primary School and the Cunupia Health Centre.

Gary Nandlal, spokesperson for the action group Concerned Residents of Cunupia, told Persad-Bissessar in a letter that the contractor has benefitted from State contracts or received State funds for developing lands for the Estate Management and Business Development Company (EMBD), constructing houses for the Housing Development Corporation (HDC) and the Santa Rosa Correctional Facility.

"These projects run into the tens of millions of taxpayers' dollars," Nandlal said.

"As a matter of fact, the Minister in the Ministry of the People and the Minister of Housing and the Environment both went on record to shower praise on this contractor for constructing 'free' houses."

The plant has been a source of concern for the neighbouring residents who have complained that the dust and noise have been affecting their health and the environment.

On March 26, several residents attended the monthly statutory meeting of the Chaguanas Borough Corporation and asked Mayor Orlando Nagessar to look into the matter. Nagessar later told the Express that the Corporation's engineer reported that he was informed by the Environmental Management Agency (EMA) that permission was not granted for the construction of the plant.

Nandlal said the residents have also complained to the EMA, the Town and Country Planning Division (TCPD) and the Cunupia Police Station but the plant has continued operating.

"Over the past four months, Cunupia residents have suffered increases in numerous ailments including respiratory tract infections, allergic reaction, and skin rashes. The Cunupia Government Primary School, which houses over 500 children on a daily basis, also had outbreaks of skin rashes in that same period. Aren't these the same children's issues you use as campaign ammunition whenever you seek to 'win' people's hearts? Why haven't you responded to our cries?"

Responding to the issue via e-mail on Saturday, Housing and Environment Minister, Dr Roodal Moonilal, told Nandlal that the matter has been dealt with by a high-level technical and legal team from the EMA.

"The chairman of the EMA, Kelvin Ramnath, reports that the EMA entered into a consent agreement whereby the contractor has expended huge sums of money to mitigate any damage or disturbance to the communities," Moonilal said.

Director/CEO of the EMA, Dr Joth Singh, in an e-mail to Moonilal, said the EMA has been very deliberate in investigating the claims of "some residents" of the area.

"In addition to convening a meeting (chaired by me) at the EMA headquarters with the concerned residents, our technical and legal personnel have made repeated visits to the operations in question," Singh said.

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