Wednesday 28 October, 2020

Tobago NGO: environmental assessment needed for Sandals project

Photo: Illustration showing plans for the Tobago Sandals project which has been submitted to the EMA.

Photo: Illustration showing plans for the Tobago Sandals project which has been submitted to the EMA.

Tobago stakeholders are demanding that an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) be carried out for the Sandals Tobago project.

Vice President of Environment Tobago, Patricia Turpin, said plans for the project, which consist of two resorts with a total of 925 rooms, 25 restaurants, four jetties, golf course, as well as constructed wetlands and lakes, require much more consideration from stakeholders especially as the project can severely impact protected areas. 

The very first statement that the whole area is clay is totally wrong. The base at that location is coralline. They have not looked at the geological map done by Arthur Snoke, which anyone can refer to online, which shows that that area has a coralline base, not clay.”

Tobago Sandals CEC application

Turpin also questioned the plan for structures being built in the sea off Sheerbird’s Point (No Man’s Land) and the disposal of waste there.

“The real name of No Man’s Land is Sheerbird’s Point, which includes No Man’s Land. The map shows two jetties going into the sea with an estimate of 14 oversea houses on it, and then another with the restaurant. Where’s the waste going to that would be produced there? Would they have to put a pipeline underground or near to the reefs? That is right on the edge of the marine park and the Ramsar site.”

“The application also shows that they are going to be levelling mangroves and marshlands to put a golf course. What are the environmental implications of that? That whole thing needs an extensive Environmental Impact Assessment,” she said.

Turpin also questioned the project proposed disposal of 100 metric tonnes of solid waste, and an additional 1,850 cubic metres (almost 500,000 gallons) of wastewater,  which would be sent to the Water and Sewerage Authority (WASA) site at its treatment facility in southwest Tobago.

“The solid waste is another huge issue where they put that it has to be taken to Studley Park. They’re already at capacity out there, and the tonnage they have listed is way more than what anyone would have estimated could go into Studley Park, so that we have questions about as well.”

Turpin said therefore that the project start date of January 2019 is not feasible.

“When they say they’re going to start January 2019 how is that possible? That is not possible unless they intend to grant a CEC (Certificate of Clearance) without conducting an EIA, so we are very suspicious of that,” she said.

Turpin added that Tobagonians have expressed concern regarding the impact on the environment and their livelihoods. 

“We have held public meetings twice, early last year and this year. People are concerned but there was not much that could be done at the time as no application had been made."

“I don’t think Tobagonians support it because it affects their heritage, it will have an enormous social impact. The application left out Buccoo Village which is adjacent to that area and this will affect them.”

“The Buccoo Reef has already been subjected to environmental stressed due to climate change, and I am not convinced that this project can be done without adversely affecting it, it would require enormous care. We’re talking about changing rivers and waterways…that will absolutely affect the hydrology of the area, which will affect the Reef.”

“We need to be very careful, this is not the type of development that can just go in there without an EIA and a thorough one at that. It would have to involve input from all stakeholders.  They will have to do that because it’s too sensitive of an area,” she said.

Turpin said the group is awaiting the EMA’s terms of reference which will indicate whether an EIA should be done.

Recently, a High Court judge ruled that details of the Sandals Tobago project should be made known to the public. 

The project has listed several details about the project as follows:

- Five-star development consisting of 925 rooms in two resorts, 25 restaurants, four jetties, two of which lead to over water rooms and one over water chapel. The entire project should take up over 260 hectares.

- Constructed wetland and lakes, boardwalks and equestrian trails, roads, walkways, drainage, beach nourishment and protection

- Overwater buildings which extend from No Man’s Land out into the sea

- 17 percent of the land will be converted to covered space and paved areas (excluding the golf course)

- Estimated water consumption of 2,000 cubic metres per day

- Estimated solid waste production of 100 metric tonnes per day, to be disposed of at the Studley Park Landfill or recycled

- Estimated wastewater production of 1,850 cubic metres (over 500,000 gallons) per day, to be treated at the WASA southwest Tobago water treatment facility

- Project lists construction activities such as clearing, cutting, excavation and grading of the land.

- Intended commencement by January 2019.

Buccoo Reef, Bon Accord Lagoon protected by Ramsar Convention

The Buccoo Reef and the Bon Accord Lagoon have been declared internationally as environmentally sensitive sites which contain sensitive species including coral reefs, seagrass beds and mangrove forests. The lagoon is also home to the critically endangered Hawkbill turtle and at least 119 fish species.

The Convention on Wetlands, called the Ramsar Convention, is an intergovernmental treaty that provides the framework for national action and international cooperation for the conservation and wise use of wetlands and their resources.


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