EMA halts 500-acre Las Cuevas project

The Environmental Management Authority (EMA) has issued a notice of violation to a Las Cuevas land developer asking that he cease work on his 500-acre parcel of land on the beachfront.

The notice was served on businessman George Aboud on April 25, following a complaint last month to the EMA by the Las Cuevas Eco-Friendly Association after the group claimed that he had excavated a turtle nesting site on the beach, resulting in several leather-back turtle eggs being destroyed.

On April 26, EMA managing director Hayden Romano said Aboud met with EMA’s head general manager of legal compliance and enforcement Gayatri Badri-Maharaj requested that work on the project be halted.

On Wednesday, Romano confirmed that the authority had served the notice of violation on Aboud, following an investigation. He said the developer was “quite cooperative.”

On May 9, the EMA is scheduled to meet with Aboud again.

The violations, according to Romano, surround alleged activities done without a Certificate of Environmental Clearance (CEC) and endangering an environmental sensitive species.

As for reports by the association that Aboud disturbed and destroyed nesting sites on the beach, Romano said the EMA had no solid evidence against him.

“What the association showed us were some photos of some egg shells.”

Romano said the EMA will bring Aboud in compliance with the Environmental Management Act.

“One of the things Mr Aboud would have to do is apply for a CEC if he wants to continue with the activities. The question is whether or not the activities would have required a CEC. And the only how, really, for us to determine whether or not what the works you are doing, whether they fall into the CEC designated activity, is for you to do an application.”

Once a CEC application is made, Romano said, the EMA would look at the scope of the works and determine if a CEC is required.

Romano said “a long time ago” Aboud had applied and obtained a CEC for work on the lands.

“Then he made a subsequent application to develop a resort in the area. Based on the scope of work and application the EMA requested an EIA (Environmental Impact Assessment) and that was never completed. That was over three years ago. We would want him to do a new application because we don’t know if it is the same scope.”

Aboud: No small investment

On the heel of the notice of violation, Fishermen and Friends of the Sea (FFOS) on Monday filed a notice of direct private party action on the EMA against Aboud for six activities, one of which involves excavating sand on the Las Cuevas beach where leather-back hatchlings were unearthed.

Lisa Premchand programme coordinator of FFOS said this action forces the EMA to investigate the developer and to respond in 60 days.

In defence, Aboud denied that he destroyed the nesting ground and the turtles’ eggs, stating that he would never do anything to break the law.

“All I did was build a piece of wall to protect the beach and my land from the sea.”

In building the wall, Aboud said the FFOS made a stink about it and the EMA asked him to stop.

Aboud accused the FFOS of “twisting the truth,” stating that he has been protecting the beach and Las Cuevas because of his interest.

“I don’t have no small investment there. I have a massive investment…500 acres facing the beach. That is more than anybody own in front of a beach in Trinidad. I have the interest of everybody in Las Cuevas.

You will find all the people in La Cuevas are my friends,” he said.

Source: www.guardian.co.tt (Shaliza Hassanali)

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