Chairman of the Asia Wright Nature Centre Judith Gobin, is calling on Government to call a halt to quarrying on the mountain ridge facing the centre. The call was made yesterday at a news briefing at the centre. It follows complaints from the centre, as well as local and foreign supporters, about quarrying in the area. Though the quarrying looks like a small scar on the hillside from the centre, to birdwatchers and nature enthusiasts it is not only an eyesore but a direct threat to the habitat of animals in an area known for its biodiversity. Gobin said Government, as sole shareholder of National Quarries Limited (NQL)—the company responsible for the quarrying activity—needed to begin restorative work on the cleared and blasted forest area immediately.
Gobin also called for the immediate adoption of the national policy on the sustainable use of the Northern Range, which was recommended by the Environmental Management Authority’s (EMA) State of the Environment report. “We are calling for urgent completion and adoption of the National Physical Development Plan and that the activity of quarrying be reinstated to the list of activities under the Designated Activities Order immediately,” Gobin said. Quarrying was removed from the list under the last government, effectively removing it from the jurisdiction of the EMA. Late last year, however, Environment Minister Dr Roodal Moonilal announced the Government’s intention to return jurisdiction over all quarrying activities to the authority. Gobin said the centre had been assured by NQL that the company would not begin quarrying on the ridge facing the centre. However, the company later began bulldozing that area.
She claimed the material was being used for the construction of the Point Fortin Highway in South Trinidad. “When are we going to stop? When are we as a country going to say enough is enough?” Gobin asked. Former chairman of the centre Dr Carol James suggested that as an alternative to “desecrating” the environment through quarrying, the Government could look at importing the materials. “This is not just an Asa Wright issue, this is a national issue. Because of quarrying we have lost our water supplies. Wildlife will be killed or driven away,” James said. James said the functions being provided by the eco-systems in the valley were of billion-dollar value that could not be replaced. “When these mountains are destroyed, everything changes. Wind direction changes, landslides occur, flooding becomes a problem. Everything changes,” James asserted.
Bordering the Arima/Blanchisseuse Road which leads to the centre, the green hillside is interrupted by gorges of brown rock where excavators and backhoes remain active. Trucks filled with material follow one another, leaving a trail of swirling dust and sometimes large chunks of rock, which remain on the roadside. The Arima River, which flows crystal clear higher up the mountain, becomes polluted and muddy as it makes its way down. Residents of the area, say they have become immune to the activity but complain about the dust. Six telephone attempts to contact Energy Minister Kevin Ramnarine remained unanswered up until 5 pm yesterday.