Government must act lawfully
Date: March 21st , 2018
The Constitution of Trinidad and Tobago declares the right of the individual to life as a fundamental human right. This means that no one, including the Government, can try to end your life. It also means that the Government should take appropriate measures to safeguard life by making laws to protect you and, in some circumstances, by taking steps to protect you if your life is at risk. The National Environmental Policy (NEP) of 2006, states that “the Government therefore accepts the responsibility to adopt policies and measures with a view to improving human health and the quality of life”. The laws of our country mandate that the Government ensures the protection of human health, yet they intentionally risk the lives of the La Brea fishing and fish consuming communities.
Since the December 17th 2013, Petrotrin has reported a “7000 barrel” oil spill which washed ashore in La Brea; this community has been plagued with daily fish and marine species mortality in such great numbers that it has become the norm. Since the last reported mass fish kill in Carat Shed Beach La Brea on 26th February 2018, the Environmental Management Authority (EMA) has visited at least 4 times to investigate fish and predatory marine bird kill at the behest of Alvin La Borde, President of the La Brea Fisherfolk Association. However, when the EMA visited, no samples were taken to determine the cause of death. Why didn’t the EMA inform the pubic there were ongoing fish and bird kill?
After several months of daily reoccurring fish kill since 2013, Fishermen and Friends of the Sea (FFOS) commissioned the University of Trinidad and Tobago (UTT) to test the flesh of fish samples from La Brea for polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs). The accredited laboratory reported “significant contamination” and “significant danger” in some parts of the Gulf of Paria, near the vicinity of La Brea. The results also concluded that these pollutants have worked their way into the fish within the area. This leads to higher and higher levels of these pollutants in the fish, and when consumed by the neighbouring community, it poses a “significant threat” to human health.
Why does our “caring” Government continue to knowingly give substandard evidence of the safety of the fish tested by the United States Food and Drug Administration (USFDA) when their samples never even came from the oil impacted areas of La Brea? Despite Petrotrin allegedly being fined “20 million TTD”, the area has never been cleaned up nor has there been continuous monitoring of the sediment, water and flesh of animals so as to ensure safe levels of hydrocarbons? The Authorities knew of the threat to the La Brea Fish consuming Community, yet they have abdicated their responsibility in law; they have never issued warnings to the La Brea community regarding public health endangerment nor have they implemented any measures to safeguard human health. Public authorities must consider the priceless lives of our citizens when making decisions that might put their health and lives in danger or that may affect their life expectancy. The right of life is married with the concept of the right to a healthy environment. Unless our Authorities act with haste a serious public endangerment will continue. FFOS will continue on its sometimes lonely pilgrimage to protect the voiceless.