Chief Sec condemns excavation at Courland Beach

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

Excavation works at Courland Beach, Tobago have raised concerns about the impact on the environment. – Photo by Visuals Style

THA Chief Secretary Farley Augustine has condemned the excavation work at Courland Beach, also known as Turtle Beach, Tobago, in April, which resulted in the destruction of a leatherback turtle nesting site.

The Environmental Management Authority (EMA) is still investigating the incident, which came to light after a video on social media showed what appeared to be land works and crushed turtle eggs scattered along the sand.

Courland Beach is an important nesting site for the endangered leatherback turtles on the island.

In a release on May 3, the authority said it was critical to determine “the person or persons who authorised the excavation works on Turtle Beach and the owner/operator of the excavator.”

Addressing a function on June 4 to commemorate World Environment Day at the Shaw Park Cultural Complex, Augustine said the incident should never be repeated.

“It is regrettable and perhaps we should be apologetic that somehow or other, between the THA and EMA, some madman was allowed to bulldoze parts of the beach at Courland. That must never happen ever again,” he said. “And for it to never happen again requires that communities become more vigilant, because the EMA and THA will not always be there, but you will always be there.”

He told them even more than the THA or the EMA, people in the community and village councils seeing their neighbours doing something wrong, have a responsibility to stop it.

Excavation works at Courland Beach, Tobago have raised concerns about the impact on the environment. – Photo by Visuals Style

Augustine urged the audience to do all in their power to preserve the environment and conserve energy.

“Are you still in your neighbourhoods lighting fires to get rid of your garbage, or are you properly disposing of your waste? Are you still purchasing Styrofoam (containers) for your harvest festivals, or are you purchasing materials made from recyclables?

“Are you still leaving the water running endlessly while you walk around the house brushing your teeth to then return some time when you remember to turn it off, or are you being responsible in keeping the tap closed while you brush your teeth?

“It is the simple and easiest things that matter most. and all of us are responsible.”

Augustine also complained about the lack of government action on a bill sent to Parliament in November 2021 to enable the THA to create marine parks across the island.

“At that time, we were in the minority, and it was perhaps only two motions or bills brought before the House of Assembly during that entire four-year period that got unanimous vote, meaning every single member voted for the legislation.

“We are now in 2024, and that bill sent down to Parliament has not seen the light of day in the Parliament. I am not sure if it reached the Parliament doors.”

He said such actions must be expeditious if Tobago is to show the world it is serious about saving the environment.

“So even as we build out this paradise, even as we invest in public infrastructure, even as we build new roads, airports, hotels, schools and ensure that Tobago gets the economic development it requires, we are reminded that sustainable development is not just the goal, but it is a requirement for us.”Augustine said for this reason the THA has started putting environmentalists on boards “so that they can keep us in train and in check, because as a politician, the desire for development and to have ribbon-cutting and to unveil cornerstones sometimes trumps our desire for the environment.”