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No regulation for land reclamation

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Thursday, September 17, 2009
From Pt Cumana and Chaguaramas
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LEFT: Gary Aboud Secretary, Fishermen and Friends of the Sea RIGHT: Dr Keith Rowley Diego Martin West MP

Diego Martin West MP Dr Keith Rowley says law enforcement is needed between Pt Cumana and Chaguaramas after several homeowners have illegally reclaimed land causing coastal degradation.

Diego Martin West MP Dr Keith Rowley says law enforcement is needed between Pt Cumana and Chaguaramas after several homeowners have illegally reclaimed land causing coastal degradation.

Rowley first expressed this concern during his contribution to the 2010 Budget debate in the Houses of Representatives on Monday.
“There is a committee that specifically deals with land reclamation. There is no order or authority or anybody enforcing the law. They have created a coastline that is unnatural nor is there protection and some communities are being harmed by the unplanned and unregulated development,” Rowley said in a telephone interview yesterday.

He said the sea pulls from one area to another and in Pt Cumana there are a lot of the drains that are blocked by sediment.
“The blocked drains are largely from moving silt from the reclaimed land. They are acting outside the law from Bayshore, Pt Cumana to Carenage. Many individuals are reclaiming without approvals from the authorities.” Rowley said homeowners started when people with waterfront property wanted to extended their land into the sea.
However, Rowley said some people have applied for licence while some have gone ahead without permission. “It affects the surroundings, fisheries and communities in the area and this types of development ought to be regularised. Even the Government can impose fees and collect revenue from it; particularly since it may cost the Government more in the long run when they have to clean up the beaches and waterfront areas after the sea moves the fill material along the shore. People are doing what ever they want and causeways have to be built in relation to the coastline.

“We need to take action to see the reclamation is surveyed and developers pay their taxes. Virtually everybody on the seafront is doing reclamation.” He said illegal reclamation causes the coastline and the land to be unstable, making flooding worse and land planning development difficult. “Reclamation should be done in an orderly way and somebody has to determine what that has to be done. It should be done after a survey, environmental impact report and a license from the State authorising development works. There should be terms and conditions that goes with the license and this should include paying the State plus reclamation to receive a proper title for what you have created.” He said there are “no titles, no land and an improper coastline with no proper enforcement of the land.” He said he has consulted with several attorney generals to no avail. “People are doing as they please and we are and getting a shifting coastline.”

Rowley said there is no orderly enforcement of the law. “It doesn’t have to be punitive but there must some regularisation of it,” he said. “It has to be completed in a proper manner with approved reclamation and plans that can be enforced. If not, the continued disregarding of the law will be to everyone’s detriment.” Secretary of Fishermen and Friends of the Sea, Gary Aboud, said the Government needs to strengthen the law to monitor environmental degradation.
“The Government is doing absolutely nothing about it. Instead of strengthening the law and monitoring environment degradation they are weakening the laws,” Aboud said. “When a law is allowed to be bypassed and side-stepped and the Government does nothing, then every law in every corner is weakened. And this goes against everything the Finance Minister said about zero tolerance for lawbreakers in her budget statement last week.” He said there are other bodies who are challenging verbally and judicially government decisions on behalf those who are without a voice.

He said there has been several judicial actions before the court and environment commissions that have challenged the orchestrated degradation and dismantling of laws that this country. “We were fortunate to receive (under Ramesh Maharaj Lawrence as attorney general) the Environmental Act 2000. “Reclamation causes environmental degradation and it fills up the rivers with silt. And the EMA needs to enforce quarry laws as well. Quarrying is also degrading our marine resource and it is related to this latest development as well,” Aboud said. He added that the Water Pollution Rules were passed two years ago in Parliament and calls for fees to be designated. “We are still waiting for it to be enforced.”