An application for judicial review has been filed by Environmental activist Dr Wayne Kublalsingh and president of the T&T Farmers Union Shiraz Khan seeking to reverse a decision by the Environmental Authority to grant clearance for the construction of houses on the fertile St Augustine Nurseries.
The matter was filed before Justice Robin Mohammed at the San Fernando High Court yesterday. Kublalsingh and Khan were given three weeks to come up with submissions to support their case.
The application seeks to quash the EMA’s Certificate of Environmental Clearance (CEC) granted to the T&T Housing Development Corporation (HDC) on September 14 last year to construct a dozen eight storey high rise buildings.
The buildings comprise of 504 units of multi-family residential housing and are expected to be built on 7.083 hectares of land off the corner of Farm Road and Southern Main Road, Valsayn.
Kublalsingh and president of the T&T Farmers Union, Shiraz Khan are contending that the EMA failed in its mandatory duties prescribed by the provisions of Section 36 (1) of the EMA Act, to consider all relevant matters. The judicial review application seeks to ensure that the EMA conducts an Environmental Impact Assessment on the project to assess the risks.
Speaking to the media outside the court, Kublalsingh said the housing project was carded to be constructed on the existing nursery and not near the nursery.
“The HDC wants to put out of existence 17 acres of grade 1 agricultural soil and negatively impact the horticultural, environmental and economic functions. We have filed an action for judicial review asking the court to reverse the decision of the EMA to grant the CEC.
“We other hearings in February when the court will hear the application for leave,” Kublalsingh said.
He noted that there were no attorneys on board with the judicial review application.
“I myself had assembled a team of lawyers but that did not work out so I had to do most of the documentation and submission myself with the assistance of my sister who did some of the filings,” Kublalsingh said.
Khan, who also addressed the media, said he was trained at the nursery site 35 years ago.
“Out of 156 acres they removed the Apiaries Division to build houses and now they want to do the same thing. This struggle is not political. It is about protecting our people and the environment,” Khan said.
He added that over the years the Nursery was starved of resources. “There was no tractor on that site for two years, they starved that site and now they saying it is not financially feasible to keep the nursery,” Khan said.
MP for St Augustine Prakash Ramadhar, who was also present, said the nursery was valuable and was an important horticultural and environmental asset.
While housing is important, Ramadhar said, there were other parcels of land which were more accessible and better suited for housing. He noted that the germplasm and fertile Grade 1 soil were extremely valuable to farmers as the nursery provides adequate plant stock and genetic varieties for T&T’s farmers.
Once leave is granted, the matter is expected to proceed in the High Court. —RADHICA DE SILVA