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Quarries threaten limited supply

Published: 
Friday, October 9, 2015
Water crisis worsens
Gary Aboud

T&T’s natural aquifers are now under threat due to riverine quarrying, hampering the Water and Sewerage Authority’s ability to produce potable water.

Already faced with a severe shortage of rainfall, Water and Sewerage Authority (WASA’s) corporate communications manager Daniel Plenty, admitted yesterday that some quarry operations have impacted on WASA’s ability to produce water. 

Some of these quarries were located close to WASA’s Acono plant in Maracas/St Joseph, Valencia and upstream of the Guanapo Water treatment plant, Plenty said.

“WASA supports the call for the proper regulation and control of quarries located close to riverine ecosystems. However, the main issue facing WASA right now is the lack of rainfall,” Plenty revealed.

WASA has implemented a limited supply for most of Trinidad and Tobago after reservoir levels continue to dip.

Meanwhile, president of the group Fishermen and Friends of the Sea (FFOS), Terrence Beddoe, as well as secretary Gary Aboud called on the Government to stop the clogging of aquifers and water courses caused by quarrying. Both men called for an immediate suspension of all quarries near riverine ecosystems.

“For 15 years FFOS has feared and warned of what appears to be in 2015, an unprecedented water shortage/drought crisis. Now it is on our doorstep. Official forecasts are that Trinidad, and especially Tobago, is running aground as we face serious water shortages at the end of the “rainy season,” Aboud said.

He expressed disappointment that the budget did not address environmental mismanagement and degradation.

“For the Budget, we expected that major environment issues of mismanagement and degradation would have been addressed, including an integrated water and watershed/ aquifer management plan specifically in the northern region of Trinidad, as all rivers in the southland are dead or dangerously polluted, and they were not,” Aboud said.

Saying T&T’s leaders seemed to misunderstand the critical interdependence of public and environmental health, Aboud added: “There are no food crops or livestock if there is no water. 

“There are no pollinating bees or butterflies if we face drought.”

He said numerous studies and reports lodged in the library of the Water Resources Agency (WRA) show that WASA’s water intakes are unable to function effectively due to the siltation caused by upstream quarry activities.

“The recharge of underground water storage capacity (aquifers) becomes limited due to the siltation, denudation and accelerated clogging of riverine ecosystems. Both the (Patrick) Manning and (Kamla) Persad-Bissessar regimes rubber-stamped approvals for quarries in the Northern Range watershed areas and it is accelerating the crisis,” Aboud added.

Saying fresh potable regenerating river water must be protected at all costs, Aboud called on the Government to make public the state of T&T’s water security.

“In the interest of transparency and good public administration, our Government is obliged to make public this Strategic EIA guarded unnecessarily by the previous regime,” Aboud said. 

“Until our national water security is safeguarded, we call on the Government to protect water security by suspending all quarries which exist near to or alongside riverine ecosystems that have been granted approval by previous governments until the impact of these quarries on the aquifers and WASA intake filters can be determined and mitigated.”

He also called for the appointment of a joint committee to examine and advise on mitigation regulations/relocation. That committee, Aboud said, should consist of the WRA, WASA, a community stakeholder, an environmental NGO, the Quarry Association, the University of the West Indies (UWI), the University of T&T (UTT) and the Environment Management Authority (EMA).