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New laws for disaster management needed
There needs to be new legislation to deal with the management of national emergencies and disasters. This was one of the recommendations in a report presented by President Anthony Carmona at a meeting with members of the newly appointed National Environmental Assessment Task Force at the Office of the President, St Ann’s.
The report was the result of consultations held by a multi-disciplinary panel that Carmona convened in January to provide insight into the causes, nature, extent and impact of the oil spills which took place in the south-western peninsula in December. Eleven oil spills resulted in approximately 7,000 barrels of oil being leaked into the sea off south Trinidad. The oil washed up on beaches and affected marine and human life.
The panel of 25 experts from the University of the West Indies (UWI) and the University of T&T (UTT) was chaired by UTT Provost Fazal Ali and Dean of the Faculty of Engineering at UWI St Augustine, Prof Brian Copeland. Yesterday the report was handed over to the task force, less than an hour after the ten members received their appointment letters from Environment Minister Ganga Singh at Tower D, Waterfront Centre, Wrightson Road, Port-of-Spain.
Three additional positions of the task force need to be filled by two international experts and one local expert. Singh said he expected these positions to be filled within two weeks. Carmona, who said things had gone “woefully wrong” in December when the oil spills occurred, said information reaching the public had not been cohesive and was often conflicting.
• Need for policies, measures, mechanisms and systems to detect, counteract and treat with disasters.
• Systems should be put in place to ensure the immediate and future well-being of those affected by national emergencies and disasters and society as a whole.
• Modernised legislation.
• Effective co-ordination of agencies responsible for the management of oil spills was also highlighted.
Chairman of the Environmental Management Authority (EMA) Allan Bachan, whose agency played a key role in monitoring the oil spills, accepted the report on behalf of the task force. Bachan was also appointed as chairman of the new task force. He said his role at the EMA would not conflict with his appointment as chairman of the task force. One of the 17 directives given to the group is to evaluate the response of all agencies, including the EMA.
Asked whether or not the task force would be carrying out a similar function to the EMA, Singh said this was not the case. “The EMA is a regulatory body. The task force will make recommendations, and if it is for legislation, then that is something we will do.” Singh said.