There has never been any benchmarks, standards or consistent monitoring systems in place to screen for heavy metals in T&T in order to assess the impact on the environment or human life.
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EMA needs 100 more officers
The Environmental Management Authority (EMA) needs 100 more police officers, as most of the work it does is very sensitive and in some instances has led to death threats. Raising the issue was the EMA’s chairman, Dr Allan Bachan, at yesterday’s joint select committee meeting in Parliament, during a discussion on illegal quarrying, especially in the Valencia district.
Saying there were certain implications associated with quarrying, Bachan said the EMA had fostered a number of relationships over the last two years, especially with the Ministry of Energy, the Commissioner of State Lands and the commissioner with responsibility for forests. “The EMA’s involvement, in terms of taking the necessary action, is predicated on the fact that these illegal quarries require permits in order to operate,” Bachan said.
He said the organisation’s current capacity was 11 officers to man the entire country, adding that a proposal had been sent to Cabinet to increase the number not only to deal with illegal quarrying but also illegal logging and scrapyards.
“The EMA is committed to dealing with these matters. However, there is another component associated with it and that is the risk factor. This matter is a very delicate matter. One would remember last year when we had a joint exercise and the Director of Minerals’ house was shot up as well as my own life was threatened, and we need to appreciate the risk associated with these interventions,” Bachan explained.
He said over the years a lot had changed in relation to environmental issues, as the population was demanding greater environmental stewardship. Further, Bachan said, the legislation was in need of upgrading and the EMA’s board, over the last six to eight months, had been pursuing changes in the legislation, including the solid waste and hazardous waste rules. Bachan said compliance, monitoring and enforcement were critical components for a regulatory body to be effective.
He said the authority was also looking at hiring people with specialised skills, given the different types of industries applying for permits. Over the last few years, he added, there had been an increase in the agriculture, quarrying and oil and gas applications. In 2010, the number of certificates of environmental clearance (CEC) being monitored was unrecorded. In 2011, the percentage of CECs being monitored was just over one per cent; in 2012 nine per cent; 2013, 32 per cent; and, as of June 2014, 42 per cent.