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Cunupia under pressure
While everyone is embroiled in the Section 34 fiasco and other current affairs, the people of Cunupia are living though a nightmarish 2012. The unlawfully operated concrete batching plant continues to operate full steam ahead. The plant is owned by UNC financier Mootilal Ramhit & Sons / RPN Enterprises / Contech Ltd. This was the same group that won a contract without tendering to share in a $60 million project to build the Santa Rosa prison facility last year.
This is the same group of companies that government ministers went on record to praise for their generous donation to building a house for an underprivileged family in central Trinidad. And of course the same group that is building hundreds and hundreds of houses for HDC under Dr Roodal Moonilal. This is the same minister that was in charge of the EMA at the time they entered into a highly contentious consent agreement for the batching plant.
There are many questions going unanswered for quite some time now. Why was it that the EMA claimed to have conducted air, soil and water research in their May 2012 media release but when residents of Cunupia filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request for those documents, the EMA said they had none on file? Why did the EMA withhold documents relating to the decision to award a consent agreement?
These documents were requested through an FOIA request and the request was denied! Why have the plant owners not been fined and imprisoned as provided for under the EM Act for blatant acts of pollution which have been recorded by residents of Cunupia? Even the Prime Minister, Mrs Kamla Persad-Bissessar, received correspondence depicting the pollution.
Why have government ministers appeared at the unlawful plant for various activities? Among these were the opening of the plant, a Ramayan at the plant and other activities. Even the current Minister of National Security was there at the opening on May 8 while the plant did not, and still does not have any Town and Country Planning or Chaguanas Borough Corporation approvals!
I challenge the mayor of Chaguanas to produce a government spatial plan for 2010 to 2020 or for any period which includes an industrial plant like this in Cunupia! Furthermore, the Minister of Planning Dr Bhoe Tewarie met with affected residents several months ago and promised to bring this to a closure.
At that time, the Town and Country Planning Division had already issued two letters/notices to the offenders under complaint number T5 083/2011 to immediately cease operations for lack of planning approval. Why has Dr Tewarie not used his ministerial discretion to issue a stop order and fine the plant owners? This is the same Dr Tewarie who lives a few minutes away from the plant in the same constituency.
What about the ongoing monitoring promised by the EMA? They have not visited the affected residents nor have they investigated our reports. Mind you, this plant never received any sort of approval prior to being constructed. Not even a CEC from the EMA. The only thing they have received is a provisional consent agreement from the EMA that does not even cover the garaging aspect, truck repair shop, and other industrial activities at the plant.
Another FOIA request later and we realised that the plant owners had not met the consent agreement requirements but the plant was in full operation mode. Also, the owners of the plant are storing flammable substances and hazardous substances within close proximity of the Cunupia River and the residents of lower Chin Chin Road.
In the event of a catastrophe, we, the residents, have not even been informed of a proper evacuation plan or how to deal with the effects of these hazardous substances.
More recently, the plant owners have been filling in land to the east of their property bordering the Cunupia River. Again, we are not aware of any approval being granted for such works. This is a flood-prone area and this is not the first time the plant owners are interfering with a natural watercourse. Last year, without any approval, they completely filled in a 300-ft long natural watercourse bordering Royal Park.
The owners of the plant have also encroached onto another person’s property on Chin Chin Road to give them enough of a clearance from the bridge over the Cunupia River. I do not see how the EMA could have ever granted consent to operate the plant without a proper entrance that they are legally entitled to. Perhaps this is why the Town and Country Planning Division has not found it necessary to grant the approval.
These and many other issues we have encountered in Cunupia for the last year. Up to this morning, I awoke to loud droning sounds of concrete being batched. This is indeed an indictment on the part of the state agencies responsible for this monstrous industrial plant in our backyards. Why do we have to pay taxes and then turn around to pay lawyers to help us deal with blatant lawbreakers?
The owners of the plant have stated that they accept government projects only. Therefore, it stands to reason that government projects are being done through illegal production of materials. Where are our leaders who vowed to serve the people? Who are they serving now that they are in office?
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