Sunday, February 3, 2013

Encouraging environmental events - the Peter O'Connor commentary

I am encouraged by recent news on the Environmental front here in T&T recently. And many of the positives are coming from the government, not just from the growing environmental awareness within the society. 

While we do not yet have measures for the effectiveness of many of the initiatives, we should be encouraged that they are taking place, and setting a new platform for the population to follow. And by “population” I mean all — that is most of our citizens — who really have never given a thought to where their water comes from, what forests and wetlands are for, and who think heaven is Miami. These are the people in whom we need to raise awareness of how our life and wellbeing is connected to the natural resources of our islands.

For those who do not need this lecture—and ironically, you are the ones who probably appreciate it more than those in need of the enlightenment—I want to thank you for your concern, your activism, and your outreach to the growing numbers of people who are beginning to understand. 

Apparently deeply committed, albeit loosely connected and organized, it is you new environmental activists who are keeping the saving of our country, at its source, on the front burners of the news.

Our activism in recent years—against the smelters, the steel mill at Claxton Bay, and more recently against the expansion of National Quarries Limited’s destruction of the Arima Valley; and the concerns about the turtle hatchlings at Grande Riviere --have resulted in the cancelling of the plants, the expansions, and raised awareness of the turtles at Grande Riviere. 

The “reversal” of the quarry expansion, which was a clear threat to the world recognized Asa Wright Nature Centre, prompted the government to immediately live up to one of its major campaign promises. 

They reverted to earlier environmental standards by requiring all new quarry license applications to be subject to a Certificate of Environmental Compliance by the EMA. That requirement was conveniently removed by the previous government and permitted untrammeled destruction of our countryside by quarry operators. 

The government has been pretty consistent in responding to the concerns of the environmental lobby, which is an unfunded, unsupported, loosely knit force slowly gathering momentum. In response to other pleas, they banned the killing of all species of sea turtles, and moved swiftly to prevent the staging of a large fete on a beach where turtles were nesting.

“The environment” is not just out there in the bush! It also “exists” in the cities and towns, and I certainly appreciate the moves of the EMA which is currently publishing a Hot Line number for responding to noise pollution. I know many have complained that the EMA responses are slow, and sometimes non-existent, but the point is that they are heading the right direction.

I applaud the government for presenting their National Protected Areas Policy for public discussion, and these discussions have already begun. And I really appreciate the Minister of the Environment and Water Resources, Senator Ganga Singh making his statement that most of our wildlife is almost extinct. 

Our current greed for “wild meat” has been decimating our wild life. As a nation seeking to become civilized and “first world”, we must follow the now accepted standards of preservation and conservation. Indeed, many of our International Treaties and protocols require that the standards of the first world need to be adopted here.

I hate to admit that much of our new compliance in these matters is not from our own enlightenment, but from overseas pressures and compliance requirements. Both the NQL expansion and the Grande Riviere problems received tremendous and instantaneous support from overseas, as the government can attest. But we must take this “outside support” at full value, because it has helped us to improve our conditions here and to enlighten an otherwise skeptical population.

Unfortunately, it is our corporate sector which lags far behind international protocols, the will of a growing number of citizens, and the demonstrated concerns of the government. 

Quarry operators (some of whom are political financiers), developers, manufacturers, bankers, insurers, and others care not one iota for the physical environment in which they operate. 

The quarries operated by Ishwar Galbaransingh in Matura, by Super Industrial Services and Sunway in the Arima Valley are examples of the most appalling natural desecration you can witness. So we must continue to drive our government to control the desecration and health hazards created by their operations.

I close by placing accolades on the following government ministers who, over the past year have taken positive action in defence of our natural environment: Senator Kevin Ramnarine, Minister Roodal Moonilal, Minister Stephen Cadiz, and Senator Ganga Singh. Congratulations, Honourable Ministers! Your legacy is being enhanced, so please do not be distracted!

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Jai & Sero

Jai & Sero

Our family at home in Toronto 2008

Our family at home in Toronto 2008
Amit, Heather, Fuzz, Aj, Jiv, Shiva, Rampa, Sero, Jai