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Aboud claims High Court order being breached
Environmental activist group Fishermen and Friends of the Sea (FFOS) is accusing the Government of breaching an interim injunction stopping work on the controversial $400 million Churchill Roosevelt Highway Extension to Manzanilla.
Addressing an emergency press conference on the steps of the Hall of Justice in Port-of-Spain yesterday, FFOS secretary Gary Aboud claimed to have evidence of at least four breaches of the injunction, which was granted by High Court Judge Kevin Ramcharan on Tuesday.
Aboud claimed his lawyers felt the action constituted contempt of court and would file such proceedings when application for the substantive injunction comes up for hearing before Ramcharan, on Monday.
“We are not against any road or highway but don’t break the law and defy the court,” an emotional Aboud said.
Under the injunction, the Ministry of Works, the National Infrastructure Development Company (Nidco) and contractor Kallco were stopped from continuing work on the project save and except the construction of a temporary site office, the removal of already felled trees and surveying.
Video footage, which was purportedly recorded by the group between Thursday evening and yesterday morning and distributed to the media, appeared to show excavators digging trenches and clearing a portion of land.
“They are doing major earth works. They are cutting a myriad of drains, remodelling the land and levelling it because it is uneven land. This is a forest reserve,” Aboud claimed.
Aboud also claimed he had additional evidence of new trees being felled, minor natural drainage being diverted and heavy equipment being operated within the 120-metre buffer-zone between the proposed route and the environmentally protected Airpo Savannas forest reserve.
In response to the claims, Works and Transport Minister Rohan Sinanan said he did not want to comment explicitly on Aboud’s allegations as the issue was before the court.
However, he stated: “In the injunction there was certain work that could continue. My information is that that is the work being undertaken at this point in time.”
In a press release issued after the injunction was granted on Tuesday, Nidco stated that it was confident that it had compiled with all statutory regulations before embarking on construction of the highway and disputed FFOS claims on the potential impact of the project.
Nidco’s lawyers had requested the variation of the temporary injunction to exclude the minor works as it claimed that it did not want to incur remobilisation fees from the contractor, which would apply if the project is stopped and restarted.
ABOUT THE LAWSUIT
In the lawsuit, the group is challenging the process used by the Environmental Management Authority (EMA) for granting a Certificate of Environmental Clearance (CEC) for first phase of the project between Cumuto and Guaico.
It is claiming that the process was procedural flawed and failed to consider alternative routes for the project, which would have less impact on the environment and existing communities.
It is questioning why the EMA took 10 days to publish the CEC in the national register after it was granted on June 22, last year.
The group is contending that the construction works, which commenced on January 8, will and has infringed on the Aripo Savannas forest reserve.
The Aripo Savannas is one of three locations across T&T that is designated an Environmentally Sensitive Area by the EMA.
The other two are the Matura National Park and Nariva Swamp.
According the EMA’s website the area is internationally renowned for its unusual flora and striking vegetation communities and is one of the more intensively studied natural ecosystems in Trinidad.
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