Government’s Hypocrisy on Agriculture exposed by HDC’s haste to destroy St Augustine Nurseries
The PNM’s lack of sincerity and blatant hypocrisy towards agriculture has once again been exposed.
The efforts of the HDC to seek an expeditious hearing of the judicial review challenge mounted by citizens who are concerned about the grant of a Certificate of Environmental Clearance (CEC) granted by the EMA run contrary to the supposed efforts and emphasis of the government with respect to the agricultural sector. According to media reports, the HDC even opposed the grant of leave to the litigants, attempting to abort the process by which the Court can consider the matter.
Whilst Rowley and his THREE (3) Agriculture Ministers undertake overseas travel and host functions and expos to “mamaguy” our Caribbean neighbours, the HDC is making every effort to destroy approximately seven (7) acres of valuable agricultural land to construct a 504-unit housing complex and has been granted permission to do so by the EMA. A decision with such far reaching consequences ought to be properly examined, particularly in light of the concerns raised by the litigants at the leave stage of the proceedings.
To the casual observer, it appears that the Government’s desire and haste to engage in “supporter relocation” within the marginal constituency of St Joseph trumps all other considerations, including the current traffic congestion in the Curepe area and the importance of the St Augustine Nurseries, the underlying aquifers and the possible impact on the propagation station which supplies plants and tree crops to local farmers and those who engage in planting kitchen gardens.
Judicial review provides an important check and balance on the exercise of executive power. The question before the Court is whether the EMA properly considered all the issues in the grant of the CEC and whether that critical permission to the HDC to construct multiple housing towers on land currently being used for important agricultural endeavours.
A government that is preaching to the population about agriculture and its importance must do more than just use buzzwords like “food security”. They must ensure that any project, be it housing or otherwise, be undertaken in a manner so as to not destroy the foundations of an already unstable sector plagued by flooding, land tenure issues and the neglect of agricultural access roads.
At a time when there should be an “all-hands-on-deck” approach by the State to grow our agricultural sector and offer some buffer against rising food prices, it is disappointing to see the haste with which the HDC is prepared to destroy the nurseries and by extension, impair the nation’s ability to feed itself.
This litigation is important to ensure that generations to come in this country do not suffer the consequences of what appears to be a poorly evaluated decision, driven by political interests and not those of the country as a whole.
Jayanti Rachel Lutchmedial
Opposition Senator & Attorney-at-Law