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lllegal quarrying in Matura likened to drug smuggling
Marc de Verteuil founder and director of Papa Bois Conservation group says illegal quarrying is a serious issue in east Trinidad and which needs to be addressed urgently. He is calling for government’s assistance to stop the practice which he said is destroying the eco-system in that part of the country.
In a telephone interview, De Verteuil said illegal quarrying was a big business which he likened to drug smuggling, and which must be stopped before it was too late. De Verteuil said the conservation’s name—Papa Bois, was inspired by a figure in local folklore who has been depicted as the protector of the forest and its inhabitants.
“In Matura, in that whole part of the country there is quite a lot of illegal quarrying going on. I don’t have the figures but citizens reported there are between 15 to 20 truck loads which is at $3,200 for one. That is between $48,000 to $64,000 a day. It is a mega business. I think it rivals the drug trade and I think that is the case,” he said.
De Verteuil said residents living in the district where the illegal quarrying was taking place have complained that the authorities have been complacent in taking action on their information. “It is a persistent allegation that we hear,” he said. He said Papa Bois was the protector of the forest. “That’s is why I chose the name, to do something, that he is something positive.”
Referring to the incident last weekend where police seized millions of dollars worth of quarrying equipment in Valencia, he said: “We need to see more action like that and prosecutions. Certain organisations know (illegal quarry operators) where they are.” De Verteuil said that in the meantime, vast amounts of the forest damaged by the illegal quarrying were not being restored.
“They are being too moonscaped, no restoration, no replanting of vegetation. Something needs to be done, the illegal quarrying needs to be stopped. In general, the area between Valencia and Matura is being used for quarrying,” he said. De Verteuil said he would like the authorities to investigate allegations of illegal quarrying at Orosco Road in Matura, an area which has been identified for several years.
He said that the same road that led to Matura Beach, which is the prime area for the nesting of leather back turtles, was also subject to illegal quarrying. “It is the second leatherback nesting area. The season starts again in March and thousands visit that beach. If nothing, it should be an embarrassment. The people involved are also moving in the area during the night and weekend,” he said.
De Verteuil said his organisation had scheduled meeting with Energy and Energy Affairs Minister Kevin Ramnarine last week to address the issue but it did not take place. He was hopeful that the meeting will materialise in the near future.
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