Friday, December 15, 2017

‘Stop excavation work at San Fernando Hill’


at a standstill: Excavators behind Stackhouse next to the San Fernando Hill yesterday.

Mark Fraser

The San Fernando City Corporation (SFCC) has ordered that excavation work being done at the foot of the San Fernando Hill be stopped, pending an investigation into whether proper procedures are being followed.

San Fernando Mayor Kazim Hosein said the City Police visited the site, on the compound of Stackhouse (a wholesale, import/export business), and found that activities relating to the removal of gravel were taking place in an area cordoned off by galvanised roofing sheets. He said the loads of gravel were being stockpiled at a site near the Marabella Police Station.

Ministry of Energy officials, accompanied by armed police officers, also visited the site at Pointe-a-Pierre Road yesterday to assess the work being done and determine whether the owners were acting within the law.

Stackhouse is owned by Truman Lochan Dass, who was not at the business yesterday when the Express sought to get a comment. Employees also declined to speak with the Express.

Mayor Hosein stated that members of the city council received calls from concerned San Fernando residents that the activity was causing degradation to the San Fernando Hill, a natural landmark in the city.

“Being proactive, we immediately requested the City Police to investigate the matter. It was later reported that gravel extraction was taking place behind the galvanised fence, and stockpiled within the vicinity of the Marabella Police Station. 

The City Police stopped the owner of the property from engaging in any further work pending an investigation,” he stated.

Hosein said preliminary investigations found that permission was granted over four years ago by the then Ministry of Planning, Housing and the Environment, for the construction of a three-storey structure that included a basement, 15 feet deep.

He said prior to granting approval of the application in March 2009, the SFCC requested the intervention of the Ministry of Energy and Energy Resources to monitor the excavation. In June 2009, he said, the Ministry of Energy informed the corporation that a mining inspector was assigned to the site.

“No work to the property was conducted in the past two years. Work for the project commenced on and about early April 2014. The land owner subsequently came to the San Fernando City Corporation after work stoppage. The city engineer forwarded copies of the permission and conditions of approvals to the City Police informing that the land owner had permission to engage in work. Work recommenced on site,” he said.

The city council and the corporation also found that the land owner was in violation of the conditions stipulated on a notice dated October, 2008.

The notice stated, “That during site preparation that any material to be removed from the site to be stockpiled on the parcel of land located at Williamsville... so that no nuisance is created to the adjoining properties or any user of any nearby roads.”

Hosein stated that the stockpiling at Marabella had raised environmental and health issues among the residents. 

“The City of San Fernando encourages new business to grow and develop. However, the San Fernando City Council is not in agreement with the removal or the extraction of any gravel from the vicinity of San Fernando Hill. 

The City of San Fernando is, however, guided by permission granted by other State agencies, the administration is also guided by previous approvals and excavation works which was done on Romain Street, San Fernando thereabout July 2006. 

The San Fernando City Corporation is in the process of notifying Town and Country Planning, the Environmental Management Authority (EMA), Office of Disaster Preparedness and Management (ODPM) and other relevant State agencies.

“We are requesting immediate intervention and guidance to determine the best course of action that can be taken if there is any breach or threat that will negatively impact on the environment and citizens of the city,” he said.