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Fresh complaint from FFOS over Manzanilla highway

Published: 
Saturday, April 7, 2018
The aerial image provided by Fishermen and Friends of the Sea of the section of forest in the Aripo Savannas that was being cleared for the highway from Cumuto to Manzanilla.

Environmental activist group Fishermen and Friends of the Sea is alleging that the Ministry of Works has breached the Certificate of Environmental Clearance (CEC) granted for the Churchill Roosevelt Highway extension to Manzanilla.

In a press release issued yesterday, the group’s corporate secretary Gary Aboud claimed that it had filed a direct private party action with the Environmental Commission, which has the jurisdiction to hear legal challenges of the enforcement of the instruments and policies introduced by the Environmental Management Act 2000, including CECs.

The fresh legal challenge comes days before the group’s application for leave to appeal, the dismissal of its separate lawsuit over the granting of the CEC, to the Privy Council is set to be heard by the Court of Appeal on Monday.

In its action, the group is claiming that the Ministry breached the CEC by infringing on the 100-metre buffer zone between the proposed route and the Aripo Savannas forest reserve, which was declared an environmentally sensitive area by the Environmental Management Authority (EMA) in 2007.

Aboud said the complaint was filed after the EMA remained silent on alleged breaches of the CEC, which were raised by the group in its failed application for an injunction against the project, last month.

He said: “FFOS will continue to faithfully monitor the Aripo Savannas, to ensure the EMA is not turning a blind eye and the ministry is abiding by all CEC mandated mitigation measures to ensure the protection of the voiceless flora and fauna of this designated environmentally sensitive area.”

Aboud revealed that his group had also written to EMA managing director Hayden Romano to exercise its statutory jurisdiction to seek an injunction against the Ministry over the alleged breaches.

In the lawsuit, which is being appealed, the group was challenging the process used by the EMA for granting a CEC for the first phase of the project between Cumuto and Guaico. The five-kilometre segment is estimated to cost $400 million.

It was claiming that the process was procedural flawed and failed to consider alternative routes for the project, which would have less impact on the environment and existing communities.

The lawsuit was dismissed by High Court Judge Kevin Ramcharan in January as he noted it was filed outside the three-month statutory limit.

While FFOS was required to file the lawsuit three months after the EMA granted the Ministry the CEC on June 22, last year, it filed it exactly three months after it learned of the decision on July 6.

Ramcharan also ruled that all 14 grounds of complaints raised by the group in its judicial review lawsuit are devoid of merit.

The judge’s decision was upheld by the Court of Appeal, who refused an application for an interim injunction until the group gets leave to pursue its final appeal before the Privy Council.

The group had been previously granted interim injunctions while Ramcharan and the Appeal Court were considering the case.

Minister of Works and Transport Rohan Sinanan and a team from the ministry are expected to visit the site today to examine the work in progress.

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