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Environmentalists call on Govt: Stop the talk, speed up action
Plenty talk. Little real action. Small steps forward but a long way to go yet. This is the consensus among environmentalists on the Government’s attitude towards environmental protection. The 2013 budget statement appears to hold a little more promise than the last one.
The 2012 budget promised to continue to work towards finalising the Beverage Containers Bill to give effect to the recycling of waste containers and discourage the careless It also told of Green Fund legislation which provided for organisations and community groups to qualify for assistance.
This year’s budget promised to finalise waste management rules, protect forest resources and expand CEPEP Marine to the East and South. Improvement in drainage and a moratorium on construction were other promises. Environmentalist Stephen Broadbridge felt the Government was moving in the right direction and the country was actually moving forward, but not fast enough.
“They are taking the right steps but they need to fast-track things,” he said. The previous administration actually pushed environmental protection backwards by taking away honorary game wardens and making it legal to quarry without permission, he said.
The present Government put back quarrying legislation to fix this and increased fisheries officers, Broadbridge said. The PNM ignored pleas to ban hunting but the PP Government brought legislation to outlaw turtle hunting, he added. He remains disappointed, however, at the lack of protection for wildlife.
“A lot more wildlife officers are needed and the revision of legislation is a priority,” he said. The Environmental Management Authority (EMA) seems to be showing business how to dodge environmental laws rather than protecting the environment, Broadbridge claimed.
And, to date, not a single government has been really concerned about bush fires, the real cause of flooding, he said. Marc de Verteuil, of Papa Bois Conservation, felt there was only limited improvement in environmental protection. “They have closed the loophole that allowed turtles to be hunted but it certainly didn’t end the turtle trade.”
De Verteuil said the trade continues secretly. Illegal quarrying also continues despite legislation against it. De Verteuil believes not enough enforcement of environmental law and monitoring are being done. The Beverage Containers Bill is yet to be passed while plastic pollution has increased, he said.
“Plastic pollution has entered the food chain. It’s present in all of us,” he warned. Stephen Harris, of Secure Recycling Ltd, said he was not seeing any major improvements in environmental protection. “There is a lot of talk and very little action.” He said, in reality, it’s very difficult to access money from the Green Fund because of bureaucracy.
“Only a few projects have been approved so far.” A lot of recycling companies are still awaiting the impetus the passage of the Beverage Containers Bill will give them, he said. EMA CEO Dr Joth Singh said there were only 16 officers in the Environmental Police Unit.
“This is insufficient for true day-to-day policing...We are lobbying to have the EPU strengthened,” he said. Singh disagreed that the EMA worked in favour of the private sector. “We use the same yardstick for every project that comes across our desk,” he said, citing the example of the EMA’s action against Home Construction Ltd (HCL) for alleged lead pollution.
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