Mangrove destroyed today – lawlessness breeds lawlessness
Date: June 29th, 2018
The press release below was intended as a warning for the Environmental Management Authority (EMA) to prevent the destruction of the Cuesa River and the surrounding mangroves by the Chaguaramas Development Authority (CDA).
The Chairman of the CDA knows from his land holdings in Manzanilla the critical importance of mangrove ecosystems.
The law is clear. When public figures in authority open handedly flout the law, every citizen in every corner of the country disregards every law
FFOS calls on the highest office the right honourable prime minister Dr Keith Rowley to ensure that those who have been appointed to lead state agencies are not permitted to flout the law with impunity.
Unless our Prime Minister ensures lawfulness in the highest offices of his administration, our nation will continue to slide into the dirty dungeons of crime.
Fishermen and Friends of the Sea (FFOS) have received reports that the mangroves located in Chaguaramas by the Cuesa River, between Pier 2 and the 5 Islands Park, have been earmarked for removal (see Image 1 for location).
FFOS reminds the EMA that one of the mandated functions of your good office is to monitor compliance of the terms and conditions of Certificate of Environmental Clearance (CEC) applications. Mangroves are protected under the National Environmental Policy (NEP), 2006, which have a force of law and are protected by the “No Net Loss Policy” under the National Wetland Policy, 2002.
The NEP is empowered by the Law of Trinidad and Tobago. Our Government and agencies have continuously bypassed the critical importance of abiding by Law. The blatant disregard for the institution of law has been seen several times in such places as Caroni, Nariva, Invaders’s Bay, Las Cuevas, Aripero, and even the Cuesa River in the past which was threatened by the Chaguaramas Development Authority. There is a ceaseless string of incidents perpetrated by the government to break laws and dismiss the intention of Parliament.
On 23rd – 24th June 2018, your Line Ministry in collaboration of the Institute of Marine Affairs conducted a twoday mangrove planting and rehabilitation exercise where over 1000 mangrove seedlings from Caroni were planted in the Brickfield mudflats to offset extensive coastline erosion in the area.
Surely the EMA will agree for the need to maintain our mangrove ecosystems and are aware of the importance and the myriad of services they provide. Mangroves are responsible for several ecosystem services such as coastline protection and construction, acting as fish nurseries, carbon sequestration, and filtering river silt which would otherwise flow into the sea and muddy the waters. They also act as a valuable wildlife habitat. These mangroves in particular are home to hundreds of birds who will be displaced by the mangrove removal, as clearly seen in the video footage attached. The Cuesa River similarly is home to such species as caimans who will be affected by development in the area.
We appreciate that the Government fully understands and embraces the need for mangroves and the role they play in coastal protection. Therefore, it is imperative that you, the EMA, investigate this matter as illegally removing this piece of mangrove forest could expose the entire Chaguaramas basin to erosion.
FFOS is being forced, more than ever, to challenge administrative decisions judicially. It is not our goal to engage in expensive, cumbersome litigation that is costing the government and taxpayers tens of millions of dollars. Instead, we are appealing to the government and agencies to simply do the right thing: follow the law, and abide by the national policies.
Until and unless the EMA exercises its statutory jurisdiction and halts the removal of these mangroves, the integrity of the Chaguaramas coastal basin will be further weakened and become exposed to coastal degradation.
Image 1- Google Maps location of planned mangrove removal