Concerns raised 20 years ago are now echoed
Dear Editor/ Newsroom
FFOS concerns raised 20 years ago are now echoed
When will we learn?
In 2000, Fishermen and Friends of the Sea (FFOS) lobbied for the protection of Invaders Bay Mangrove Forest, which were being secretly privatized and bulldozed for built facilities. Had a proper environmental impact assessment (EIA) been conducted, the function of the mangrove forest and its role in curbing flooding in our Capital City would have been deliberated. Better valuations of the protective services of these coastal habitats would have ensured that they are recognized and when built development is considered, it would have acknowledged and mitigated risks to public safety.
Since the removal of the Invaders Bay mangrove forest, every year Woodbrook has been plagued by flash flooding. Have anyone wondered why? Today, like then and despite the “No Net Loss” mangrove policy enshrined in our Law, our mangroves continue to be destroyed by legal and illegal habitat degradation, in part because the economic value of their benefits and services is not appreciated or measured, nor is its importance synchronized with competing activities of private enterprises, governmental ministries and agencies that have the potential to impact our wetlands. Despite repetitive scientific assertions, wetlands and mangroves are not fully accounted for in public administration and management decisions.
Led by the World Bank, a 2017 study released by the Wealth Accounting and the Valuation of Ecosystem Services (WAVES) “quantitatively values the benefits provided by mangroves across the Philippines and finds that they reduce the damage from flooding to people and property by 25 percent annually”.
Now in 2018, despite seismological warnings of quake disasters and obvious flash flooding, UDeCoTT is gallantly inviting “expressions of interest” for development of 30.5 hectares of lands at Invaders Bay. Is this carefully considered planning? For a city that has decimated so much of its marine habitat, and where the average person in our capital has few windows to even see the sea, shouldn’t we at least consider saving this one small last piece of standing and pristine mangrove?
Have we forgotten the myriad of ecosystem values and functions mangrove has in terms of coastline protection, adsorption of pollution, protection to inland coastal communities, reduction of damage to coastal infrastructure and its critical role in coastal stability, spawning and species survival?
Earlier this year, acclaimed engineering seismologist Dr Illias Papadopoulos expressed his concerns that “Port of Spain is in grave danger…..tall buildings can be “swallowed up into the ground”, simply “sinking” and “the land would move like water in the event of a major earthquake in a process called liquefaction”. In 2000, FFOS had campaigned on the consequences of bulldozing the Invaders Bay mangrove forest, including on the risks of liquefaction and flooding.
As we move towards built development, what are we doing to prevent or minimize the risks of liquefaction which Dr Illias Papadopoulos has repeatedly warning us about? If a high rise sinks with fatalities who will be held accountable? Sincerely,
Gary Aboud Corporate Secretary Fishermen and Friends of the Sea