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Conference to focus on pollution

Thursday, January 20, 2011
Cleaning up the mess
Gary Aboud

Today, our guest columnist on Cleaning Up The Mess is Gary Aboud, of the Non Governmental Organisation Fishermen and Friends of the Sea, who is primarily responsible for organising the First National Conference on Environmental Management which will be held tomorrow, at the St Augustine Campus of the University of the West Indies.

Newspaper headlines over the last year reveal a small glimpse into an environment that is crying out for action. Industrial waste water contaminates the Caroni Swamp; sewage is mostly untreated; oil spills continue unchecked; there is little or no conservation of wildlife even though the entire country is devastated by forest fires annually. The British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) has recently highlighted that the twin-island republic ranked among the top ten worst nations on the emissions per capita indicator.

There is good news in light of the budget presentation which Finance Minister Winston Dookeran gave in Parliament on September 8 in which he promised to lay environmental legislation on issues like air pollution and hazardous waste, but is this enough? Certainly “balancing environmental considerations with economic ones" is challenging, but we have no choice.

Appropriate precautionary measures to prevent serious and irreversible damage to the environment must be paramount in all existing and new development projects. The People’s Partnership in its manifesto highlighted a number of strategies in its Plan for 120 Days of Immediate Action.

These included:
• Establishment of a Civil Society Board to strengthen the voice and influence of NGOs and civil society organisations.
• Introduction of the Planning and Development Land Bill (PDLB) to govern land use planning and development so that development can take place in a coherent and sustainable manner. Formulate a work plan to ensure that drainage and flooding problems are solved once and for all.

• Develop and implement an integrated coastal zone management strategy.

• Establishment of a National Parks and Recreation Authority, for the purpose of conserving, protecting and maintaining environmentally sensitive areas.

• Establishment of an incentive scheme that would support individuals, companies, and in particular heavy industry and buildings which engage in energy-saving measures.

The destruction of the environment waits for no one. To date these strategies have yet to be implemented and we are deeply concerned. Every day, citizens’ lives are impacted by the continued failure to address pressing environmental issues. There is an urgent need for all stakeholders—the citizenry of Trinidad and Tobago— to come together to discuss, debate and reflect on a way forward, scientifically, programmatically, and politically to support effective environmental management in Trinidad and Tobago.

The First National Conference on Environmental Management will be held tomorrow, at the Campus of the University of the West Indies, St Augustine. Hosted by the University of West Indies, the University of Trinidad and Tobago and a Coalition of Non Governmental Organisations, the Conference intends to bring together government, business interests, academia, students and nongovernmental organisations to discuss issues of importance concerning the environment in Trinidad and Tobago.

The conference, a first of its kind in Trinidad and Tobago will focus on environmental issues regarding quarrying, flooding, water pollution, air pollution, waste management, biodiversity and environmental justice. Government officials, the private sector, technical experts and citizen activists will sit side by side to share the latest statistics, perspectives and experiences and the opportunity to put forward ideas and solutions to support effective environmental management.

One of the key outcomes of the conference is the preparation of a report which will become one of the leading resources on environmental management in Trinidad and Tobago and serve to assist all stakeholders including the government of the day on a way forward to sustainability.

If you require any information regarding the conference or registration details you can visit us at our web site at or email [email protected].

The current flooding in Australia has been called the worst natural disaster in that nation with dozens missing and 25 recorded deaths and rising toll. It’s even worse in Brazil where the death toll is over 600 which rescue workers say could double once they access remote areas. Join Ira Mathur this Sunday on Cleaning up the Mess, on CNC3 at 10.30 am and 6 pm for a rerun of an interview with the current High Commissioner to the UK, Garvin Nicholas on how our authorities reacted in the aftermath of heavy flooding. Send in your photos and comments to [email protected]
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