The United National Congress is calling on Government to come clean on the threat posed by the extension to the Churchill-Roosevelt Highway from Cumuto to Sangre Grande to the protected Aripo Savannas. Member of Parliament for Oropouche West Vidia Gayadeen-Gopeesingh stated, “The UNC is deeply concerned about recent reports showing the destruction of a large area of the environmentally sensitive Aripo Savannas Scientific Reserve.
Mrs. Gayadeen-Gopeesingh noted media reports which revealed that on 8th January 2018, excavators and bulldozers were dropped on the southern border of the Aripo Savannas, and many acres of this environmentally sensitive area have been destroyed.
The Aripo savannah is internationally recognized for its unique mixture of flora and fauna and was declared as Long Stretch Forest Reserve in 1934, proposed as a site for scientific research in 1980, a completely prohibited area by 1987 and in June 2007 it was declared an environmentally sensitive area. In fact, the Oropouche West MP noted, the Environmental Management Authority stated that it was designated as a Strict Nature Reserve because “it is one of the areas in Trinidad and Tobago with high scientific value, as it is the best remaining example of the types of ecosystems found within its boundaries”.
The MP questioned the Government’s haste to build this highway extension. “Why is this government so eager to destroy our environmental heritage? Whose pockets are being filled by this mismanaged project?” she asked.
“The UNC understands the critical need to transform this country’s economy, with a greater focus on the environment, and this is why our vision and plan for Trinidad and Tobago included moves to action the Green Economy,” she said.
Mrs. Gayadeen-Gopeesingh pointed out that under the Government led by former Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar, a number of green initiatives was delivered, such as the moratorium on hunting, the moratorium on hillside development and specifications for development initiatives and multi-storey buildings.
Noting that the PNM, in their glamorized booklet “Vision 2030,” spoke about “placing the environment at the centre of social and economic development,” the Oropouche West MP questioned their decision to embark on this project, which could possibly lead to the destruction of the Aripo Savannas.
She asked, “Why not complete the unfinished highway in south Trinidad? Why not focus on fixing the dilapidated road system that has sparked citizens’ protests on a daily basis?”
“Regrettably, the damage has already been done. Most of the flora at the Aripo Savannas are slow growing. Many endemic species were already destroyed and the soil structure totally compromised,” she lamented. “There can only be hope for some form of secondary growth to remember what, once was the Aripo Savannah.”
Mrs. Gayadeen-Gopeesingh concluded, “We can only hope that the people of Trinidad and Tobago can come together to stop this government from further destroying our beloved nation.”
Vidia Gayadeen- Gopeesingh
Dated 24th January 2018.