Conservation group granted injunction; highway halted
Conservation group Fisherman and Friends of the Sea (FFOS) said it scored a 'landmark victory' in the Court of Appeal on Friday after it was granted leave to appeal to the Privy Council and an injunction pending the hearing of that appeal.
The injunction effectively halts further construction work from continuing on the Toco-Manzanilla Highway with 'immediate effect'.
The group said in a statement that the ruling, the Court of Appeal comprising Justices of Appeal, Narine, Pemberton and Moosai found that the FFOS had a genuine and legitimate dispute with an arguable appeal which the Privy Council should hear.
In so doing, the Court said the damage to the Aripo Savannas Environmentally Sensitive Area would be irreparable and hence impossible to compensate.
The Court said the case justified the grant of leave to the Privy Council so that the highest court can consider the important issues raised and in particular, how certain provisions in the Environmental Management Act, 2000 should be interpreted.
Having granted leave, it stated that the Appeal to the Privy Council would be rendered “hollow” unless an injunction was granted to halt construction works on the highway as the damage to the environment may not be reparable.
In granting the injunction, the Court noted that at the time FFOS filed its application for leave, the contract to KALLCO had not yet been awarded by the Ministry of Works and Transport as the terms and conditions imposed in the Certificate of Environmental Clearance (CEC) were yet to be fulfilled.
It rejected the argument that FFOS should give an undertaking in damages to compensate KALLCO and the Government because it was a non-profit organization acting in the public interest to protect a sensitive environment.
"FFOS welcome this historic ruling which is the first of its kind in this jurisdiction. On previous occasions, the courts had refused to grant such an injunction as the works had already commenced. The most recent example of this was the Highway Re-route Movement case."
"This is therefore an important victory for environmental groups and a bold step in securing ecological justice," the group said.
FFOS said it will be filing an application to ask the Privy Council for an expedited hearing of its appeal.
FFOS was represented by Anand Ramlogan S.C., Jayanti Lutchmedial, Alvin Pariagsingh and Ganesh Saroop instructed by Robert Abdoo-Mitchell.
The EMA was represented by Deborah Peake SC, Ravi Heffes-Doon, Amira Rahaman instructed by Jenelle Partap and Giselle Landeau-Birmingham. KALLCO was represented by Douglas Mendes SC and Devesh Maharaj instructed by Kandace Bharat.
The Ministry of Works was represented by Ian Benjamin, Ms T. Jorsling instructed by Svetlana Dass.
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