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Las Cuevas project sparks fisherfolk worry
Hundreds of acres of land are being bulldozed and burnt in the Las Cuevas area causing serious concerns for the livelihood of scores of villagers in the Las Cuevas fishing community who depend on the bay to survive.
They want the land development and burning at the Las Cuevas Estate to halt immediately and are calling for a proper investigation to be carried out by the Environmental Management Authority (EMA).
It is estimated that the loss of foodbasket for the Las Cuevas community could fall in excess of $10 million per year.
These were the major concerns of secretary of Fishermen and Friends of the Sea (FFOS), Gary Aboud, who spoke on behalf of the fishing community.
Speaking with the T&T Guardian yesterday, Aboud, an environmental activist, said with the removal of the forest cover the freshwater/salt water balance will be affected by the run off from the developed land.
T&T Guardian understands that of the 1,500 acres of land at Las Cuevas, approximately 468 acres owned by businessman George Aboud is being developed. On that area of land, bulldozing and grading works have already begun.
The owner when contacted yesterday said he visited the site just yesterday along with EMA officials who are currently looking into the claims made by FFOS.
“We went there and the EMA officials looked at the area including the beach,” Aboud said.
He assured that he got the necessary approval from EMA.
George Aboud said the development work currently taking place was not deemed harmful in any way.
“We found that certain protocols and requirements of the law have not been followed and it’s on those grounds that we have started legal action, in the form of direct private party action,” Gary Aboud said.
He added that the EMA has 60 days to investigate and report to the FFOS on their findings.
“We wait on the EMA and if their investigation is not satisfactory or thorough enough, we will proceed to litigate against the EMA for improperly investigating and prosecuting,” Aboud said.
He however, made it clear that he has no grouse with the developer, who is his first cousin. “We are depending on the EMA to ensure that the law does not favour some and penalize others,” Gary Aboud said.
From an ecological view, he said, if all the forest and the fresh water goes into the sea it will prevent the fish from spawning and these fishes are used for live bait in the catching of other fishes by fishermen.
“This will affect the fisheries negatively,” Aboud said.
T&T Guardian was told that the Las Cuevas fishing community depends on the live bait to support approximately 70 per cent of its Carite and King Fish catch in volume and value.
They fear that when the rainy season begins in July, this massive clearing of natural vegetation and coastal buffer zones may cause irreversible damage to the fisheries due to fresh water imbalances and siltation.
The impact of this may cripple the livelihoods of many for generations to come.
An official at the EMA, who wished not to be identified, when contacted yesterday said that an investigation into the matter has already been initiated.