JUSTICE Devindra Rampersad ruled yesterday that the small chicken farmer with 800 chickens or the pig farmer with 21 hogs ought not to pay the same pollution fees as an oil refinery.
Justice Rampersad's statement formed part of a ruling he delivered in the Port of Spain High Court where he decided in favour of Fishermen and Friends of the Sea (FFOS), which sought a judicial review of an Environmental Management Authority (EMA) regulation which allows a potential polluter--no matter how much the company pollutes--to pay a flat fee of $10,000 for the privilege of doing so.
As a result of the ruling, Ministry of Housing and the Environment, which is the parent body of the EMA, would have to review its rules and regulation regarding this polluter fee, but Justice Rampersad granted a stay of execution to November 7, by which time the Ministry is expected to appeal his decision.
If it does then the stay will be extended.
FFOS president Gary Aboud appeared elated at the decision, but would not be resting on his laurels as "there is so much more work to be done in defence of the environment".
Flanked by his attorney, Marina Narinesingh, Aboud said: "This ruling is for citizens who are contracting degenerative diseases and this must stop. There are known polluters in Trinidad, for example, there is a company who claims to be a toxic chemical treatment company and they are collecting chemicals and burning them, collecting them and putting them in crude storage systems near to the sea and that is best-case scenario.
"In a worst-case scenario the company simply dumps the waste so this is a breakthrough for Trinidad and Tobago in terms of addressing the marriage between the very powerful business corporate, international finance, chemical industrial sectors and the Government who have been traditionally bedfellows through the EMA."
He added: "So now we hope that the court has saved Trinidad and Tobago from the looseness of crude politicians and of crude government who have allowed this degradation to have occurred, so it has been four years now since this matter has been on, since 2008, so it's been a long journey.
"This has been a great victory for us, but we have other matters we are working on as there is an unbelievable amount of injustice in Trinidad and Tobago, but it is just unfathomable that politicians are bantering on who is stealing more while people are getting diseases.
"The Point Lisas Industrial Estate is a nightmare for the residents who live alongside and it continues when the EMA is granting permission for people to establish chicken farms in areas that are residential areas, but how could you put a chicken farm next to a person who is living there?" asked Aboud.
"Today's victory is a major one not just for Trinidad and Tobago but the entire Commonwealth because other countries may sit up and recognise that they have the authority to ensure that the public's interest is protected against the marriage between the industrial and government sectors."