Privy Council shuts down appeal against highway near Aripo Savannas
Photo: Clearing of land along the Aripo Savannas which was taken in January. Environmental group Fishermen and Friends of the Sea filed an appeal against the granting of environmental clearance by the EMA, however this was rejected.
Government has now been given the all-clear to continue a controversial highway project which runs alongside the protected Aripo Savannas in Sangre Grande.
On Tuesday, the Privy Council rejected an appeal filed by Fishermen and Friends of the Sea against the granting of an Certificate of Environmental Clearance (CEC) from the Environmental Management Authority for a 5,000-metre highway from Cumuto to Manzanilla, saying there was an ‘undue delay in making the application’ as well as a ‘lack of merits of the application for judicial review’.
“The Court of Appeal upheld the decision to dismiss the application for judicial review on the grounds of delay. Although the Court of Appeal held that certain grounds of appeal were arguable on the merits with realistic prospect of success, this did not outweigh the undue delay,” the court said.
(Video: FFOS visited the site in January 2018 saying part of the Savannas had been destroyed.)
The Ministry of Works and Transport said in a statement issued Tuesday that it welcomes the decision.
“The Ministry of Works and Transport welcomes the unanimous decision of the Privy Council which has today dismissed the case of the FFOS challenging the decision of the EMA for granting a CEC to the Ministry for the construction of the Cumuto to Manzanilla Highway.
“This decision has now cleared the way for the Ministry of Works and Transport and its agent, NIDCO, to proceed with the construction of this highway in an expeditious manner,” the Ministry said.
The Ministry also said construction works never occurred and were never intended to occur on the Aripo Savannas.
“On the contrary, it was always intended for the works to proceed in a manner to protect the environmentally sensitive area of the Aripo Savannas.”
“The Ministry remains resolute in its commitment to preserving this national treasure and undertakes to working closely with the EMA to minimize any adverse effect on the environment during the construction of the highway and to observe all the terms and conditions of the CEC.”
FFOS: Defeated but not discouraged
FFOS said it is proud to have fought for the protection of the Aripo Savannas, which is home to endangered species such as the ocelot.
The FFOS said it will continue to fight for environmental justice.
“FFOS are proud to have fought to protect the voiceless in this precious eco-system (the largest and last remaining naturally occurring savannas) in our country and to have petitioned the Court for the highway to be simply be moved 400 metres south of the Savannas to protect rare, threatened, endemic, endangered, vulnerable species and the legally designated environmentally sensitive species (ESS) the tiger cat Ocelot.
“FFOS thanks its hard working legal team and its supporters who have persevered.”
“Today we are saddened but not discouraged. “
“FFOS will continue to advocate for environmental and ecological justice,” the group said.
The EMA said the judgement confirms its “rigorous permitting process”.
The Privy Council’s written judgment will be delivered on 8 October, 2018.
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