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EMA BOARD OVERRULES STAFF by Cathal Healysingh

posted 23 Jan 2018, 06:36 by Gerry Kangalee   [ updated 23 Jan 2018, 06:38 ]
Image result for trinidad ema logoNIDCO's Highway extension Project from Cumuto to Manzanilla, passing by Aripo, is 32.5km long. However, NIDCO only sought environmental clearance for the first 5km that pass by the Aripo Savannah.

In accepting this piecemeal approach, the EMA’s Terms of reference (TOR) required that the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA), on which the Certificate of Environmental Clearance (CEC) would be determined, assess the Cumulative Impacts (CI) of the Project.

The CI assessment is important because the impact of a particular project on an environmental resource may be considered insignificant when considered in isolation but may be significant when evaluated in the context of the combined effect of all past, present and reasonably foreseeable future activities that may have an impact on the resources in question.

It is obvious that construction of the remaining 27.5 km constitutes a "reasonably foreseeable activity". The EMA staff reviewing the CEC application thought so and requested that NIDCO address the CI in order to determine the CEC. NIDCO claimed not to have finalized the alignment of the remaining 27.5km [despite showing the entire alignment in their submission and having sought approval for this Project back in 2006].

While this piecemeal approach is irrational from a technical-regulatory perspective, it is also illegal. This was established in 2008 when the High Court revoked the CEC issued to Alutrint by the EMA because the EIA submitted failed to assess the Cumulative Impacts associated with the Port and the Power Plant, which were obviously integral components of the Smelter Complex.

This is the problem with the CEC awarded by the EMA to NIDCO. The EMA staff reviewing the CEC were insisting that the CI be assessed but were overruled by their bosses because NIDCO (and others) wanted to get on with the Project.

In summary, the elephant in the room on the Highway is that you cannot propose a 32.5 kilometre Highway Project, gain permission for 5km of it and turn a blind eye to the remaining 27.5km.

This is but one key reason why Fishermen and Friends Of the Sea is challenging the award of this CEC. This is not about politics. This is about due process. What is remarkable is that NIDCO hired a team of UWI-St. Augustine consultants to conduct the EIA. The consulting team is headed up by an ex-Chairman of the EMA who presided over the formulation of the CEC Rules which mandated EIAs to include Cumulative Impacts.

What is wrong with us that we keep failing at transparency and accountability? How do we break this mould?
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