Wednesday 27th December, 2006

 

‘Save our wetlands’

 
 
 
 
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BY RADHICA SOOKRAJ

While many are enjoying the Christmas festivities, residents of Aripero and Oropouche have put aside their celebrations and have started doing research on what they fear will be the impending destruction of the Oropouche wetlands.

The residents were catapulted into action on Christmas Eve when Prime Minister Patrick Manning announced the abandonment of plans to build an aluminium smelter at Chatham, stating that the plant will be relocated to an industrial estate which Government plans to create using reclaimed land on the Otaheite Bank.

Manning announced that the establishment of the offshore estate will be accelerated, to facilitate aluminium production.

But environmental conservator John Keens Dumas said the construction of the offshore estate will affect ocean currents, nesting grounds and the fishing industry in the Gulf of Paria.

Dumas, who is a member of the group Neighbours Incorporated, said they have started doing research into the effects of the proposed off-shore industry.

“We believe that this industry, if it is built off the Otaheite Bank, will have implications for the Oropouche Bank, the Oropouche wetlands and the Rousillac swamp, located further west of Otaheite,” Dumas said.

He said the swamp is a spawning ground for marine life. Dumas explained that the Oropouche swamp, located at Mosquito Creek, is also a wetland and there was a possibility that with industrial activity the natural habitat of the protected Scarlet Ibis will be affected.

“The other wetland is the Rousillac swamp and the Aripero Village is bounded by the Rousillac swamp, so undoubtedly there will be repercussions if that plant is built,” Dumas said.

He added: “The entire hydro-dynamics of circulation in the Gulf, as well as the ocean currents, will be affected. We have to be careful in how we affect the circulation of the sea. This is where we have the entire food chain and, once we affect that, there will be a domino effect once you start messing with the natural forces,” Dumas said.

He said that the fishing industry in Otaheite will also be affected.

“We are still doing our research to determine whether this offshore estate will destroy the fishing industry in the South.”

Meanwhile, another activist—Judy Mc Lean—said residents are planning to meet on Old Year’s Day to discuss their concerns. We are prepared to stage protests and do whatever it takes to protect our coast,” Mc Lean said.

She added that she has already started doing legal research to stop the construction.

—Alcoa responds on Page 5

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