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N Touch
Saturday 20 January 2018
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Dictatorial, undemocratic, and secretive public consultations

THE EDITOR: Quarry zones are “required” by the Minerals Act of 2000. The Ministry of Energy (MOE) engaged an English company, to conduct a Strategic Environmental Impact Assessment Report (SEIA) to identify and recommend quarries (Mining Zones) across TT. Their work started in January 2013 and was due to be completed at the end of September 2013. FFOS were invited , along with other public interest citizens and stakeholders to the first “public consultation” in December 2013 after the report had been completed.

This was not a public consultation — it was dictatorial, undemocratic, and secretive.

There was no background information provided beforehand as to what was going to be the subject of the “public consultation” even though FFOS wrote requesting same.

There was no open comment period to allow attendees to voice their concerns.

The SEIA Report which formed the basis of the entire “public consultation” process was deemed to be too confidential to share with the attendees. Imagine you are being asked to participate in a “public consultation” process and you are not permitted to view the document that is underlying the entire consultation?

Many of the responses provided were vague.

Attendees were warned not to try to get the SEIA Report even under the Freedom of Information Act, (FOIA) as this was clothed with Cabinet secrecy. What can be so confidential in a report on quarrying zones in Trinidad and Tobago?

There were no maps clearly showing the proposed mining zones.

The nation’s water security is at stake. Should we not have had meaningful public consultations during the study period?

According to the MOE, the recommendations of the SEIA will “allow” the Environmental Management Authority to grant a “blanket” Certificate of Environmental Clearance (CEC) to all existing and proposed quarry activities in each of the three dozen designated Mining Zones. This according to the MOE will “simplify the process” for the grant of quarry licences and provide an “emerging framework for better regulation of the industry”.

FFOS expresses its strongest dissatisfaction with how the MOE has gone about conducting the SEIA. If what has been proposed is indeed appropriate and above board, why were the consultations during the study not open to public participation? Now that the report has been finalised, why not share the Report with the public? Why is the SEIA “shrouded of secrecy” as found in the Alutrint affair?

Gary Aboud

Secretary

Terrence Beddoe

President

Fishermen and

Friends of the Sea

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