Date: January 28th 2018
Many people are suddenly in favour of this controversial highway as if to suggest that FFOS are opposed to it. FFOS have never said we should not have the highway or that we don’t want development for Toco or Tobago.
Many who are quick to lend support for the highway have not considered the importance and role of planning laws in our country. We expect more from present and past parliamentarians who should appreciate the importance of our environmental legislation, including this nation’s strongest legislative protection for environmentally sensitive areas and species.
We are all entrusted with a God given responsibility to protect our rare, recognized and protected flora and fauna with care and at a very minimum, we are obligated to observe the principles embodied in our Law and enshrined in the National Environment Policy( the NEP) and the Environment Management Act (the EM Act).
FFOS endorse infrastructural connectivity and have never said otherwise, so we expect the learned and respected criminologist Professor Ramesh Deosaran, in a recent publication in your press, is expressing personal opinions when he espouses highway benefits including “an improved fishing sector”. Does the Professor understand that this highway litigation is actually about sustainable development and is advocating conformity with the EM Act and the NEP which says that if you are going to build a highway adjacent to a designated Environmentally Sensitive Area (ESA) with Environmentally Sensitive Species (ESS), sustainable development best practice requires that you properly assess the environmental consequences?
To be balanced, can the Professor explain how the construction of a highway from Cumuto to Sangre Grande justifies connectivity between Trinidad and Tobago if a feasibility study for the Toco Port has never even been conducted, or why a bankrupt and failing nation would buy a hundred million dollar vessel for a port that does not even exist and may never even be issued the required CEC approval?
To be balanced in the public interest the learned Professor should also consider the oceanographic impact of heavy seasonal Atlantic Ocean wave action if north coast dredge works are conducted for a wide turning basin for incoming ships to facilitate the TOCO Port. The Tobago airport is dilapidated, small and large companies are closing and/or retrenching (Arcelor Mittal, NGC, UTT, Media Personnel). Can we afford this 5km arm of a 32.5km highway that is estimated by the Honourable Minister Rohan Sinanan to cost taxpayers between 2 to 5 Billion TTD?
Why this wide range in his estimated cost? How will the nation finance the other 4.6Billion? Is this properly thought out? Is the 5 Billion available now and if not why are we building a part of highway in the forest with no connectivity? And if it is not, then why are we building a part of highway in the forest with no connectivity? Schools are dilapidated, roads are falling apart and need repair and could instead be widened, the treasury is depleted, there is foreign exchange and economic uncertainty, massive retrenchment, cancer and dialysis patients abandoned without care. How will this highway investment balance the widening deficit in a recession? What will it stimulate?
Should a 5 Billion rural access highway for a low density rural area that already has infrastructure be a national priority in this guava season? There is a perception that this project is designed to finance the upcoming election and inflate the private coffers of parties who are already being investigated for price fixing and contractor corruption and were openly fired for the mess that Maracas has become. Sadly, the endangered ocelots are voiceless, and no one is listening to what they would say if they knew what was being planned. One would expect a criminologist to approach this issue with a wide angle lens for the larger implications which this highway debate and litigation now represents for our nation.
Gary Aboud Corporate Secretary – FFOS