Although huge sections of the hillside behind the O2 Park in Chaguaramas have disappeared in the past few months, owner of the popular entertainment venue, businessman Davie Boodoosingh, denied that it is the result of illegal quarrying. He claims the 6.8 earthquake which shook the country last August and bush fires are to blame.
The damage to the hillside is very visible on the eastern end of the land leased to Boodoosingh by the Chaguaramas Development Authority (CDA), Rocks have cascaded to the bottom of the hill and lie in front of a container with what seemed to be some kind of staircase behind it. There were wooden pallets at the base of the hill.
When he was asked about the cutting of the hillside, Boodoosingh said: “That’s not true, There was a landslide from the earthquake and after that, because of the bush fires, it loosened up all the dirt so it was kind of eroding,
He said the hillside has been inspected by the CDA and O2 has been given the all-clear.
Boodoodingh was asked about an application made to the Environmental Management Authority in 2011 for a Certificate of Clearance (CEC) to “mine four acres of a ten-acre parcel” which was withdrawn last May 23. He said that application was an error.
He said another CEC, made on January 21, 2014, for the “cutting and grading of land with a gradient of 1:4 or more to facilitate stabilisation of a slope and retaining wall” lapsed because the work was not carried out within the specific time.
According to a copy of the CEC obtained by the Sunday Guardian, O2 was given the all-clear on December 31, 2014.
“They (EMA) told us to bench it but we never got around to doing that, we never had the time to do it and that’s what the problem was, we were supposed to cut it and bench it and then the CEC ran out on us and we left it alone. Had we done it, we would not run into this problem,” Boodoosingh said.
O2 Park applied for a third CEC on January 9, 2017, for “establishment of a desalination package plant” at the same location but was refused permission by the EMA on August 11, 2017.
Asked about that, he said, “That is a work in progress, they wanted some more details so we are working on it.”
He explained: “It is a personal water treatment for the irrigation of the park because we are having water problems there—on the same location but for personal use.”
According to Boodoosingh, a fourth CEC application made on May 23, 2018, for “the operation of a portable desalination plant” was for the same purpose.
“I think it was done over. We had to restructure that as a portable, it wasn’t a plant, it was a portable unit so that is why we did it over, we made a mistake in the application at the time.”
That application is currently on hold as the summary lists its status as a “clarification letter” and it is dated December 7, 2018.
Boodoosingh is confident the EMA will grant him the CEC for the latest application.
“It is just a little data they wanted us to provide but I don’t see that being a problem.”
Told of concerns that the park’s management might be trying to encroach on the hill, he said, “ No, nothing like that happening because it has a border. It’s nothing more than it came down. It was an act of God. What else could we do but clean it up.”
Asked about the paving of the lower part of the hillside within O2’s perimeters, Boodoosingh said that was done years ago. He said at the time, the CDA board approved the resurfacing of the grassy area.
Efforts to contact CDA chairman Narine Gupte Lutchmedial were futile and messages left with the CDA’s corporate secretary were not returned.
Demming: Protect our heritage
A former chairman of the Tourism Development Company (TDC) is asking why massive parts of the Chaguaramas hillside that border the O2 Park are being cut away.
Dennise Demming said during a recent event at O2, she was shocked to see large pieces of the rock wall exposed. She believes that citizens deserve answers from the facility’s management about why they have been cutting into the hillside.
“Over time what I have seen is a total degradation of the area and almost a denial of its beauty and it’s access to John Public,” she said.
“I grew up in East Dry River, Laventille and I ask myself now for a child that is growing up in that area now, what would be their first experience of the ocean? For me, it was that we could take a bus and come down here but now there are only two sites that the public can access to bathe and all you can see in the water are yachts and other boats.”
She said it is time the public demands answers from business people as the hill is a part of T&T’s heritage and it should be preserved.
Demming posted a single photo of the bare hillside to her Facebook account on March 31 but said while social media activism is useful, more needs to be done.
“It got a lot of shares but that is what people do, they share things and feel good but we need to know what exactly are the plans for here and some of the things that are happening need to stop. They cannot be allowed to cut into the hillside any further,” she said.
Demming said she and other nature lovers enjoy running in Chaguaramas because of the beauty of its flora and fauna but those attractions may soon be lost.
“I can still see howler monkeys and other wildlife but when they continue to cut into the hill, you are going to see fewer monkeys, birds, butterflies. As long as we continue with what I call the rape of the peninsula, we are losing our heritage, we are losing something that the public and every Trinidadian has a right to,” she said.