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Bulldozers wreak havoc. Is this the last of the world famous Aripo Savannas?

Bulldozers wreak havoc. Is this the last of the world famous Aripo Savannas?

Date: January 15th 2018

Dear Editor/Newsroom,

One week has passed since the heavy earth moving machinery started bulldozing the southern boundary of the Aripo Savannas including the historic train line and the standing forests including Moriche Palms immediately adjacent to the Aripo Savannas and within the designated Long Stretch Forest Reserve.

Thus far, a distance of 1-kilometre-long and approximately 100 meters wide have been bulldozed and the irreversible damage from the bulldozing is on-going (see picture below).

These preliminary and preparatory earth works threaten the once pristine and now protected Aripo Savannas which is recognized worldwide and has been elevated to the special protective status of an Environmentally Sensitive Area (ESA) by the Environment Management Authority (EMA) itself, under the watchful Chairmanship of the then Chairman Dr. John Agard.

Buffer Zone forest cover bulldozed.

Presently, as our pictures clearly show, there is a mere thin strip buffer zone between the highway and the open grasslands of the Savannas in spite of the fact that it is stated in the Environment Impact Assessment(EIA) that there would be a 120 meter buffer zone between the proposed highway and the Aripo Savannas.

The EIA was prepared by the National Infrastructure Development Company Limited (NIDCO) with the University of the West Indies (UWI), led by Professor John Agard, as the Technical Consultant.

The picture below shows that the designated forested Buffer zone which is defined in the EIA, has not been implemented by the Ministry of Works and Transport (MOWT) thereby exposing the Savannas to excessive air, noise, light, soil and water contamination, habitat fragmentation and degradation. This forested buffer zone cannot function now that the required and protective forest cover has been bulldozed. Heavy earth moving machinery is altering the historic train line which is inside of the buffer zone and is impacting the Savannas with all many negative impacts.

Grasslands affected.

The open grasslands provide a habitat for endemic ground orchids such as the rare insectivorous plant, the sundew, the clubmosses and the liverworts and the most outstanding stands of Moriche palm in the country which provide the staple food for the resident red-bellied macaw, which is listed as vulnerable in the Wildlife Act (1999). The Rufescent Tiger Heron, the Sulphury Flycatcher and the Moriche Oriole are listed and protected as “rare” under the Wildlife Act, reside within the Aripo Savannas. The area is also home to the EMAs designated Environmentally Sensitive Species (ESS), the Ocelot Tiger cat (Leopardus pardalis).

Presently the bulldozers are dumping excavated earth and tree bramble onto the Savannas’ grasslands. This Picture shows earth works and bramble dumped onto the Savannas.

Picture 2 – Earth works and bramble dumped onto the Savannas
Picture 1 showing the width buffer zone between the highway and Savannas

Ravines affected

There are many ravines and seasonal water courses which run through the Savannas all of which help maintain natures balance in a sensitive area. The plants and animals of the Savannas have adapted to the seasonal cycle of water logging for 6 months and drying out for 6 months, which significantly influences their form and behaviour.

Picture 3 – Earth works and bramble dumped onto the Savannas
Picture 4 – Earth works and bramble dumped onto the Savannas

The picture below shows water courses have been altered, some even blocked, and all have been disturbed, contrary to what was stated in the EIA which was approved by the EMA. Picture 5 – Blocked and altered water courses Any minor alterations to the water courses, quality of soil and air, intensity of light and/or the composition of plants and animals in the Savannas can disturb the fragile ecosystem balance, and may have drastic effects on many ecosystems functions. Why hasn’t the fundamental Precautionary Principle not been applied to this designated sensitive area?

The EMA approved highway extension in its current form, threatens to increase destructive anthropogenic activities including but not limited to

  • more incidents of squatting, – more intense and frequent bush fires, – more illegal hunting and poaching of wildlife especially the designated Environmentally Sensitive
    Species -the Ocelot Tiger Cat, – an increased probability of the extraction of rare endemic ground orchids, – an increased probability of the accidental introduction of invasive species, – all different types of pollution impacts (including but not limited to light, noise, air and water and soil contamination) and its associated effects and – the disruption of the hydrology of the Aripo Savannas.
    FFOS are extremely concerned about any development especially those that are in close proximity to the ASESA, and which may negatively impact upon this national treasure.

While the matter is being prepared for Judicial intervention the bulldozers are working day and night.

FFOS are fearful that this will cause long term, irreversible and irreparable destruction to the plants, insects, amphibians, reptiles, mammals, birds, invertebrates and other life so critical to the survival of this area for future generations.

Unless this project is stopped, the natural capital inventory of our nation will be even further diminished

Gary Aboud Corporate Secretary – FFOS

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