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Environmentalists say ‘no’ to chemical plant
Environmental activists have geared up to stop construction of US$430 million Caribbean Salt (CariSal) chlor-alkali chemical plant in Savonetta Couva, claiming it will bring devastation to valuable wetlands and cause cancer among thousands of people. The plant was approved by Government and clearing of 29.1 acres of lands, once owned by Caroni (1975) Limited, is expected to begin at Savonetta Estate, on Monday.
However, activists led by University of the West Indies lecturer, Wayne Kublalsingh, called for the plant to be relocated from its proposed site, east of the Point Lisas Industrial Estate. They vowed to stop all clearance work on the proposed site, saying all heavy gas-based plants should be concentrated on the west coast which is already heavily polluted.
At a news conference yesterday, Thatcher Bhola, a resident of Phoenix Park, said people were already suffering from cancers, bronchial problems and tumours because of pollution. He said if Government puts the chemical plant closer to the villages, then more people would die.
“This plant will be dangerous for the environment. More than 130,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide will be released into the air. If there is a leak on the plant chlorine, hydrochloric acid, calcium chloride, sodium cholroxide and other very dangerous corrosive chemicals, will go into the wetlands,” Bhola said. The plant, he said, is expected to produce 53,000 tones of bleach, 85,000 tonnes of hydrochloric acid, 141,000 tonnes of calcium chloride and 120,000 tonnes of caustic soda.
Another resident, Nizam Ramdath, recommended that no more heavy gas-based petrochemical industries be built on the eastern side of the Southern Main Road. “We are not against the Government’s plants to promote revenue, but we do not want any more chemical plants so close to our villages,” Ramdath said. Marcia Guerrero, an activist of Lopinot, said it was “repugnant that Government will even consider putting a chemical plant a mere 300 metres from the village of Savonetta.” She said environmental laws must be followed and Government must consider the hazards of such a plant.
Meanwhile, Kublalsingh said his team would not allow CariSal to build its plant on the proposed location. It will put 13 communities at risk for 30 or 40 years in a community already disgustingly loaded with pollution,” Kublalsingh said. He added that an alternative site was shown to Energy Minister, Kevin Ramnarine and a report of the residents’ concerns was given to Government.
Efforts made to contact Ramnarine for comment yesterday proved futile as calls to his cellular phone went unanswered. Carisal officials during a consultation with residents said the company would retain members of the Chlorine Institute to monitor and take care of safety concerns. The official said the plant would have a life span of 20 years and that a Certificate of Environmental Clearance was granted on March 16th 2009.
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