There is no Planet B
In celebrating the 51st Earth Day, FFOS reflect on environmental management in TT. Earth is our home but for decades our voiceless and vulnerable have been at the mercy of destructive (often) State sponsored projects.
Unlike our regional counterparts, we have progressively modernized environmental legislation, funded an Environmental Management Authority (EMA) tasked with the protection of our environment, and initiated the Green Fund allowing Civil Society Organizations to obtain funding for sustainable development projects. Yet, why has environmental management especially in the extractive sector failed so miserably?
Oil and Gas
According to a 2019 World Bank Study, “TT contributes the largest industrial pollutant loads to the marine environment in the eastern Caribbean, due to the increased industrial development, notably oil facilities”. Where are the Water Pollution Rules designed to halt the poisoning of our Gulf of Paria food basket?
Between 2016-2019, 377 oil spills were recorded, yet no culprits were ever punished. The National Oil Spill Contingency Plan (NOSCP) mandates the establishment of an Oil Fingerprint Database to identify and charge culpable parties. To this date, no such database exists! Why?
A 2003 Shell “Tank Integrity Report” revealed 12 condemned oil tanks in the Pointe a Pierre Tank Farm, one of which (Tank70) erupted in 2017 spilling 125,000 barrels of crude oil into our food basket and was suspected to have contaminated islands all the way to Mexico. Why are the other eleven tanks still being used?
How is it possible that in spite of numerous environmental reports, warnings and Laws, Big Oil is permitted to jeopardise public health, our fishery and our marine environment? Are laws and policies meaningless?
Successive Governments have sat idly while sand and gravel gangsters transform our Northern Range into an “open pit paradise”. Quarry operators require a licence and a Certificate of Environmental Clearance (CEC) to operate which both mandate rehabilitation of the lands after mining however, of the 131 active quarry operations only 9 possess a license. Not even State owned National Quarries Limited possesses a valid licence, making it an illegal quarry! Since 2001, 101 CECs have been issued for quarry operations. Have the EMA ever charged any quarry operator for failure to rehabilitate open pits?
Human health and our environment drown in the sea of corruption. Our history is riddled with compromised decisions and environmental degradation as a result of corrupt politicians, a situation that will only worsen with the outrageous amendments to the Public Procurement and Disposal of Property Act. How can we achieve environmental sustainability when transparency and accountability is not our Leaders’ priority?
On this 51st commemoration of Earth Day we ask you and our leaders to reflect on the state of our health and our environment and how our action or non-action contributes to our demise. Until Public officers stop lining friends and financiers’ pockets and focus on restoring our health and environment, our people and earth will continue to suffer. This is not dress rehearsal. There is no Planet B.