FFOS World Wetlands Day Statement: Are we doing enough to protect our wetlands?
Date: February 1ST 2019
The United Nations declaration of World Wetlands Day appears to pay lip service to our environmental agencies. According to a 2019 United Nations Report titled “Environmental Rule of Law- First Global Report”, ‘a dramatic spike in the global adoption of environmental laws has failed to translate into better conservation efforts… due to lack of political will, underfunded agencies, unfair judicial systems and a poor implementation of the law’.
Since inception, Fishermen and Friends of the Sea (FFOS) has actively advocated for the protection of wetlands. Despite the all-embracing global movement for wetland protection with the proliferation of international conventions and local environmental legislation and national policies, wetlands everywhere continue to be destroyed. According to Dr Rahana Juman, the Deputy Director of Research at the Institute of Marine Affairs (IMA), “Mangrove coverage declined in Trinidad by 252.4 Ha from 2007 to 2014” which is “attributed to the removal of mangrove to facilitate built development”.
Since 1998, Trinidad and Tobago adopted the ‘No Net Loss’ Policy for wetlands (meaning that for every mangrove destroyed, a new one must be replanted) which was further mandated in the revised National Environmental Policy (NEP) 2018 and yet:
- In 2000, Invaders Bay saw the clearing of a large quantity of mangrove forests despite warnings from conservation groups on the critical importance of the ecosystem and the potential for flooding and liquefaction.
In 2018, Dr. Illias Papadopoulos, a Seismologist, stated that Port-of-Spain (POS) was “in danger of sinking”. Presently, areas of Woodbrook, near to Invaders Bay now face severe flash flooding.
- In 2013, mangroves at Mosquito Creek were destroyed for the construction of the Solomon Hochoy High-way Extension. Since then, residents complain of flooding in the area.
- In 2017 DeNovo Energy Limited was granted an approval by the Environmental Management Authority (EMA) to construct a 66.1km pipeline which involved the destruction of mangrove forest that are vital for the Gulf of Paria marine food basket and critically important for the protection of our western coastal communities.
- In 2017, the Aripero Wetlands, a recognized nesting site for our National Bird and newly designated Environmentally Sensitive Species (ESS), the Scarlet Ibis, came under threat due to the private sector construction of a forty lot development. Despite many complaints by FFOS at the early stages, the Authorities dragged its feet on the necessary enforcement action.
- Since 2017, FFOS has been reporting illegal bulldozing of mangroves in El Socorro South. These unregulated, unauthorized and illegal land backfilling schemes and the clearing of mangroves are being undertaken for built development. FFOS maintains that this is the main reason for the increase in intensity and frequency of flash flooding in the area.
In the above examples, the ‘No Net Loss’ Policy has never been observed or enforced by the Government.
According to Dr Rahana Juman “the only remaining extensive seagrass community is located within the Buccoo Reef Marine Park”. Despite this uniqueness, its designation as a RAMSAR site in 2005, and its critical role in mitigating flooding, protecting coastal communities and supporting the south west Tobago fisheries, this site is now air marked for the construction of a mega resort.
Currently the National Infrastructure Development Company Limited (NIDCO) has applied for a Certificate of Environmental Clearance (CEC) for the construction of a dry docking facility in La Brea. It is anticipated that this new project will involve the removal of pristine mangroves which are necessary for fisheries and coastal protection of the Gulf of Paria coastal communities.
To date, all the governmental agencies continue to celebrate a big Hoo-Rah-Rah of environmental conservation. Until and unless governmental agencies lead by example, international celebration days such as this, only serve to camouflage the plundering of our future generations entitlement. Sincerely,
Fishermen and Friends of the Sea