Beckles-Robinson supports PM’s call to review environmental laws

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

Planning and Development Minister Pennelope Beckles-Robinson –

PLANNING and Development Minister Pennelope Beckles-Robinson says she supports the Prime Minister’s call for a review of the Environmental Management (EM) Act, which governs the operations of the Environmental Management Authority (EMA).

At a post-Cabinet news conference at Whitehall on June 13, Dr Rowley objected to people using the act to obstruct the construction of a proposed $500 million Marriott hotel at Rocky Point, Tobago.

“Everybody in this country knows we use the EMA not to help us in our development, but to obstruct our development.”

Rowley hinted at the possibility of the EM Act being revisited in light of this.

In a statement on June 14, the EMA welcomed Rowley’s statement that after three decades, amendments to the EMA Act were necessary.

“These amendments should serve to facilitate sustainable development in the rapidly changing environment due to climate change and technology particularly.”

In a Whatsapp comment sent to Newsday on June 17, Beckles-Robinson agreed with Rowley’s comment.

Beckles-Robinson is line minister for the EMA.

She said, “In keeping with theme five of Trinidad and Tobago’s National Development Strategy, Vision 2030- ‘Placing the environment at the centre of social and economic development’ and Trinidad and Tobago’s National Environmental Policy 2018, as minister with responsibility for the environment I support the Prime Minister’s call for a review of our close to 30 year old EM Act.”

In government’s Vision 2030 policy, Beckles-Robinson continued, strategic initiative 1.1 calls for the conduct of a comprehensive review of environmental policy and legislation along with relevant standards.

“As we face the debilitating impact of climate change, we need to examine our environmental legislation to meet the needs of our country’s environmental resources which are key to our economic development.”

She said, “Over 70 per cent of TT’s economic activity relies on the coasts; our water, wetlands, forests and living resources have been recorded to be worth millions of US dollars. This is also key to our diversification and economic transformation agenda.”

Beckles-Robinson added, “So if we are to keep the positive development trajectory of TT, review of environmental policy and legislation along with relevant standards is necessary.”

In its statement, the EMA said one of its roles was to ensure public awareness on developmental projects that have potential impacts on the environment.

These include developments such as poultry depots, to more complex developments such as industrial sites and hotels.

On the Rocky Point certificate of environmental clearance application, the authority said it had determined that an environmental impact assessment (EIA) was required and a final terms of reference (TOR) had been issued for the conduct of the EIA.

“Upon completion of the EIA report, the EMA and its valued stakeholders will have the opportunity to thoroughly review the contents thereof. The EMA acknowledges that several opinions have already been expressed and these will be considered as part of the determination process.”

On June 14, environmentalist Dr Wayne Kublalsingh disagreed with Rowley that amendments might be needed to the EM Act.

“I think that the Prime Minister is wrong. The EMA was fashioned to suit the needs of the State to do, as unchallenged as possible heavy development.”

Kublalsingh believed the solution lay in the EMA better enforcing its existing regulations rather than the law governing the authority being changed.

“The EMA needs better people to manage it. Non-partisan people. Independent people. People who can take very strong stance.”