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Going wild in the bamboo
On June 15, a group describing itself as Wild Ones held a cooler party at the Tucker Valley Arboretum, an environmentally-conscious event space in Chaguaramas, bounded by tall bamboo and home to birds and monkeys. For days before the event, concerned citizens began a campaign to raise awareness about the party—by then dubbed the Soca Manicou fete—in an effort to have it stopped.
Their efforts did not succeed, but the furore brought the event to the attention of the Environmental Management Authority (EMA). The EMA has since reported that it sought to stop the party before June 15, at the level of the magistrates court, but failed. On the night of the party, the EMA monitored the noise levels at the event and notified the party’s promoters that they were exceeding the designated noise levels for the area.
In a news release, the EMA’s Nicole Bachan noted that, “The event promoter also neither applied for, nor received, a noise variation from the EMA.” According to the authority, when an environmental police officer asked the promoter to reduce the sound levels, the DJ responded by raising the volume instead. The party was shut down at 2 am.
On Friday, former Congress of the People candidate for Diego Martin West and current vice-chairman of the Chaguaramas Development Authority (CDA), Rocky Garcia, pleaded ignorance of his daughter’s role in the Wild Ones party and indeed, of the group’s application to use the CDA-governed space for a party.
In addition to his stated ignorance of the details of the party, Mr Garcia also seemed to be unaware of the wildlife inhabiting the lands under his charge, dismissing the notion of noise pollution by saying, “Who you polluting out in the wilderness? You not disturbing neighbours.”
This cavalier approach to land use in Chaguaramas is certainly a new development. The CDA is notorious for halting any photography that its officers deem to be too professional on its lands and demanding fees to take pictures on its property. Certainly, the CDA’s stated outlook, on its Web site, positions it as keen to press “standing, wasting assets into active service,” but surely this must be part of a strategy that’s more coherent than these public-facing contradictions seem to indicate.
Let’s be clear about this. The fact of the Wild Ones party calls into question the judgment of everyone involved in dropping the natural barriers that should have stopped this party from ever happening. If the leaseholder for the Arboretum can allow any party to happen, at anytime, in that space, without reference to the CDA, then there’s something wrong there.
If an application for a party license can pass unopposed in the magistrates court, with no regard for the wildlife in a secluded area or the laws that the EMA polices, then there’s something wrong there. If the vice-chairman of the CDA can throw up a Chinese curtain between the activities of his daughter and his responsibilities to the authority, without feeling any need to review the situation with his board colleagues, then there’s something wrong there.
Mr Garcia is simply wrong to believe that the opposition to this event is driven by a political agenda. The groundswell of opposition that surged before the event and the outrage that followed it on multiple Facebook threads was driven by the simple fact that there are many venues available for parties and there was simply no need to bring a loud party event into a quiet nature reserve.
It was unnecessary, crass and destructive. In defending the party, the vice-chairman is calling into question the whole strategy of the CDA and its approach to managing a valuable nature resource.
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