Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Regarding the Basel Convention

Basel Convention

Date of Accession 18.02.94 (a)
Permanent Secretary
Ministry of Public Utilities and the Environment
Sacred Heart Building
16-18 Sackville Street
Port of Spain
Trinidad and Tobago
Telephone: 625 60 83
Telefax: 625 70 03

Dr. Ronnie Sookhoo
Basel Convention Caribbean Regional Centre
c/o CARIRI Compound
Trincity West Industrial Estate
Macoya, Tunapuna
Trinidad and Tobago
Teléfono: 662 7171, 662 2855
Tele-fax: 645 6734
E-mail: basel_ca@tstt.net.tt

A global agreement, ratified by several member countries and the European Union for addressing the problems and challenges posed by hazardous waste.
The key objectives of the Basel Convention are to minimize the generation of hazardous wastes in terms of quantity and hazardousness;to dispose of them as close to the source of generation as possible;and to reduce the movement of hazardous wastes.

Relevance to Smelter Issue
General Obligations
2. Each Party shall take the appropriate measures to:
(a) Ensure that the generation of hazardous wastes and other wastes within it is reduced to a minimum, taking into account social, technological and economic aspects;
(b) Ensure the availability of adequate disposal facilities, for the environmentally sound management of hazardous wastes and other wastes, that shall be located, to the extent possible, within it, whatever the place of their disposal;
(c) Ensure that persons involved in the management of hazardous wastes or other wastes within it take such steps as are necessary to prevent pollution due to hazardous wastes and other wastes arising from such management and, if such pollution occurs, to minimize the consequences thereof for human health and the environment;
(d) Ensure that the transboundary movement of hazardous wastes and other wastes is reduced to the minimum consistent with the environmentally sound and efficient management of such wastes, and is conducted in a manner which will protect human health and the environment against the adverse effects which may result from such movement;
(e) Not allow the export of hazardous wastes or other wastes to a State or group of States belonging to an economic and/or political integration organization that are Parties, particularly developing countries, which have prohibited by their legislation all imports, or if it has reason to believe that the wastes in question will not be managed in an environmentally sound manner, according to criteria to be decided on by the Parties at their first meeting;
(f) Require that information about a proposed transboundary movement of hazardous wastes and other wastes be provided to the States concerned, according to Annex V A, to state clearly the effects of the proposed movement on human health and the environment;
(g) Prevent the import of hazardous wastes and other wastes if it has reason to believe that the wastes in question will not be managed in an environmentally sound manner;
(h) Co-operate in activities with other Parties and interested organizations, directly and through the Secretariat, including the dissemination of information on the transboundary movement of hazardous wastes and other wastes, in order to improve the environmentally sound management of such wastes and to achieve the prevention of illegal traffic.

Caricom Member Countries
All CARICOM member states have signed the Basel convention except for Grenada and Suriname. Haiti is the only one of these which has not ratified the convention.

Friday, September 22, 2006

Soca Stars join protest

Richard Charan
Trinidad Express
September 22, 06

Cricket star Brian Lara will be asked to visit Chatham Village, Point Fortin to support the protest against plans to construct an aluminium smelter on Trinidad's southwest peninsula.

Football great Dwight Yorke will also be petitioned for help to convince Government to reverse its decision to allow industry giant Alcoa to build the billion-dollar plant on the 3,000-acre site.

The move to get the two sportsmen on their side was disclosed yesterday when protesters were joined by rapso artistes Roger Roberts and Wendell Manwarren from the band 3Canal who came from North Trinidad with members of the Keith Noel 136 Committee, and radio personality Anil Roberts.

This followed two weeks of camping out by residents and supporters at the entrance to the proposed industry site at Food Crop Road.

The visitors brought food and drink for the people keeping vigil at the site, where workers are using equipment to test the soil ahead of a decision on if to construct the smelter on the land.

Anil Roberts said an advertising campaign was being launched on the environmental and social impact of the plant.

He said: "The whole country is motivated. Brian Lara throughout his career has been involved in charitable work. He is very interested in the health of the people. I know this personally and when he comes back (from India) we are going to invite him down here."

The protesters briefly barricaded the road leading to the proposed site but police reported no violence or arrests.

The 3Canal group sang their anti-establishment songs, "Talk Yuh Talk", "Revolution" and "Salt" to a protest group of around 150 people.

Roger Roberts said yesterday was the start of a campaign where the camp would be visited by several singers including Destra Garcia, Shurwayne Winchester, Maximus Dan and Kees Dieffenthaller.

He said that the issue was now national in scope, and "not because we are living in gated communities mean we are not affected by this which is a backward step".

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Into the Fray

The changing positions of senior national politicians on the aluminium smelter plant to be built in Chatham on the Cedros peninsula have left many members of the public confused and unable to form personal opinions about the value of the construction of this facility in our midst.

Many who saw Basdeo Panday walking recently with the anti-smelter protesters forget that it was Panday as Prime Minister in 1998 who invited such an establishment.

Keith Rowley, Minister of Housing, speaking in Parliament, reminded MPs and the viewing public of a speech made by then Prime Minister Panday at the Hilton Trinidad on November 12, 1998. Occasion was the signing of an agreement with Norsk Hydro to construct an aluminium smelter in Trini-dad.

And it was Panday who described the establishment of an aluminium industry “as a new dawn” for T&T because it would bring a host of socio-economic gains for the nation.

Politicians are indeed strange animals. Basdeo Panday, Prime Minister and leader of the UNC inviting and supporting, while the PNM expressed opposition to certain aspects of the smelter. Today the PNM is supporting the aluminium smelter while Panday is marching against it.

In the meantime the simple people of the Cedros peninsula are being manhandled and brutalised by the nation’s defence force and police because they dare to express fear for the welfare of their community and the future of their children.

The Maha Sabha has a large Hindu membership on this south-western peninsula. In fact, there are 11 Hindu temples stretching from Point Fortin to Boodram Village at the southernmost tip of Icacos.

They are joined together by a Maha Sabha-sponsored organisation called the Southwestern Association of the Hindu Mandirs Inc and they have written to the Maha Sabha for our support and involvement.

Their letter to us:

Greetings in the name of Dharma. We are of the mentioned association which includes 11 Hindu temples which are located in the southwestern peninsula of Trinidad. This letter is to inform you, sir, of intended construction of an aluminium smelter plant in the Chatham-Cedros peninsula.

This project by Government will affect directly a number of Hindu residents as well as residents of other ethnic background.

We are therefore asking for your direct intervention on behalf of our community in lobbying the Government to desist from building such a plant in our area. Here are other reasons why the plant should not be built here:

i. The labour position—only a few thousand persons would be employed from this area during the construction of the plant. Upon completion only a minimum number who have the relevant qualification would be employed on a permanent basis. We have seen this done at Atlantic LNG.

ii. The proposed site is sitting on a natural aquifer. The ground water derived from this aquifer is pure spring water and needs little purification whatsoever to make it potable.

iii. We are dependent on agriculture and fishing. With regards to agriculture, the destruction of arable agriculture lands would go to waste. Most of the people in the surrounding villages depend on the sea as a means of earning a livelihood. With runoff from this plant, fishes are going to die or just move out of the area.

We have already seen a marked decrease in our fishing stock with the building and dredging for the Atlantic LNG. Fishermen from Point Ligoure, Hollywood, Fanny Village and Cap-de-Ville have suffered, and we do not want to add the Chatham/ Icacos area to that list.

iv. This peninsula boasts some great beaches and recreational areas, such as Granville, Bonasse and Columbus Bays. Cricket and football facilities in Chatham, Granville, Bonasse, Fullerton and Icacos will be also affected.

We are, therefore, asking you to recommend to the Government that they revamp the coconut estates, invest in the production of buffalypso, dairy farming, agriculture and tourism. In doing so, we will be able to lower the food import bill, generate long-term employment and conserve the environment for ourselves and future generations.

Sir, may I end here by pointing out the Indian and Hindu community is the second largest ethnic grouping in the peninsula.

We thank you and look forward to an early response.

The Maha Sabha has taken a decision to assist the people of the Cedros peninsula and to become fully involved in educating the national community of the dangers of the proposed aluminium smelter plant at Chatham.

SATNARAYAN MAHARAJ is the Secretary General of the Sanatan Dharma Maha Sabha

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

The morning after the night before

The invasion of the lands at Chatham continues apace this morning. As early as 4.30 am on Wednesday 13 September calls began coming in from Chatham that equipment was being rolled into Foodcrop Road with a heavy police escort.
The residents continue to keep watch and register their disapproval of this latest development.
At the time of this post (6.30 am), the Riot Squad is gathering at the Cap de Ville police post.
Heavily precepted police officers will again descend on the unarmed women and children of the south-western peninsula.

Protest Drama in Chatham

by Radhica Sookraj
Trinidad Guardian
September 13, 2006

Screams echoed in Chatham yesterday when a tractor transporting soil-testing equipment almost crushed a one-year-old child as he lay on the road, huddled in his father’s arms.
Baby Omar Mohammed burst into tears when his father Abdullah Mohammed fell in front of a tractor during a mad rush to stop Trintoplan officials from entering the proposed site of Alcoa’s aluminium smelter plant.
Four protesters, among then UWI lecturer Prof Peter Vine were arrested by police.
The Trintoplan workers had gone to Chatham with a heavy police presence to begin soil testing but were met with a human barricade.
More than 80 residents, mainly women and children, stood on the road.
President of the Chatham/Cap-de-ville Environmental Protection Group Fitzroy Beache claimed that Alcoa had no permission from the Environmental Management Authority to do any soil testing at the site.
Resident Yvonne Ashby paced up and down the street chanting prayers while another resident Muriel Amoroso threw olive oil on the street.
She lit candles and held hands with residents.
Sources said instructions were given to have the roads cleared for the Trintoplan workers.
But some residents resisted by standing in front of the tractor.
A woman, Ann James, lay stretched on the roadway as if she had fainted before she was taken away by a policewoman.
Other residents began weeping. Some chanted, “Stop this Smelter,” as the Trintoplan workers advanced.
Professor Vine, a lecturer of science, medicine and technology at UWI, and Burton Sankerali, secretary of the T&T Right Action Group, were seen in front of the tractor.
Alcoa officials Randy Overby and Wade Hughes could not be reached for comment as they are out of the country.
But corporate communications manager for the Environmental Management Authority Alicia Charles said an investigating team comprising of three investigators were dispatched to oversee testing being done on the site.
She said the geo-testing and borehole testing, now being conducted by Trintoplan, did not require a Certificate of Environmental Clearance.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Rights Action Group condemns police action in Chatham

For Immediate Release

The members of the Rights Action Group strongly condemn the arrest of members of a non-violent protest in Chatham by officers of the Trinidad and Tobago police service on Tuesday September 12, 2006.
As citizens of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago, we would like to remind those officers and the seniors they report to, of the motto of the Trinidad and Tobago Police Service, which is “To Protect and Serve”.
We are deeply concerned that officers who are also nationals are being used against the people of these communities.
We see this is as a further indication that this form of forced helter smelter industrialization is invasive and a wholly inappropriate way forward for Trinidad and Tobago.
We urge the Police Service to take a more proactive role in mediating this serious and stressful situation. As yet, this community has been given neither the technical support nor the emotional support to process the possibility of large multi-national corporations - goaded by the state coming into their backyards with an industry that we daresay the state does not understand the implications of.
The communities of Chatham and Cap de Ville are exercising their right to free speech, as enshrined in this nation’s Constitution. Their protest continues to be non-violent and the Rights Action Group will continue to support the communities in their efforts to bring attention to their concerns by internationally tried and tested non-violent direct action means.
While the protesters were released without charge, we would like to urge the officers of the Trinidad and Tobago Police Service to put these continued protests in the context of a community's intervention against a project they see as a crime against them.
We urge the Police Service to seek out the real criminals in this matter and protect the residents of Chatham and those who stand in solidarity with them.


All protestors have been released from the Cap de Ville police post. No charges were laid against them.
Meanwhile, the Prime Minister was on the news tonight saying that he could not comment on the question of the protests because he had not been informed on what was going on.
This is only the beginning of the struggle. We stand firm with the communities as they continue continue to agitate for change in Trinidad and Tobago. Change in how the government treats the people. Change in how we treat with our natural resources. Change in how we relate to the environment.
It's an uphill struggle but a few of us are committed to it and we continue to believe that we are not putting our asses on the line in vain.

Chatham residents continue the fight

Residents of Chatham, Cap de Ville and the surrounding communities on
the South Western peninsula of Trinidad kept up their fight against
the proposed Alcoa aluminum smelter plant in the face of armed
security forces that descended on the community in the early hours of
Tuesday morning.
Reports out of Chatham are that two residents have been arrested, along with Burton Sankeralli of the Rights Action Group and UWI lecturer Dr. Peter Vine were among those arrested.
Women are being pushed out of the way to allow workers from Alcoa and
Bechtel to enter Foodcrop Road.
The residents gathered at the camp where they've been keeping a 24
hour vigil since early August, having received word on the weekend
that the Trintoplan, Alcoa and Bechtel workers would be returning to
the community to begin a soil survey in the area.
The residents, formed a human blockade across Foodcrop Road, stopping
police and the workers from accessing the land.
Two weeks ago during protests, a police officer threatened to shoot
the unarmed villagers.
Despite claims from Alcoa that they received permission from
landowners to enter and conduct the tests, the community remains
adamant that no tests will be carried out. They are fearful that any
disturbance of the land will be an open gateway for Alcoa to press
ahead with building the smelter plant.
The villagers are also concerned that a situation similar to what took
place with the Union Industrial Estate where 1000 acres of land were
cleared with clearance from the EMA, exposing villagers respiratory
Two weeks ago, Alcoa hosted a consultation to discuss the Draft Terms
of Reference for their Environmental Impact Assessment at the Chatham
Youth Camp where they were told in no uncertain terms that they were
not wanted in the south-western peninsula.
Fitzroy Beache, President of the Chatham/Cap de Ville Environment
Protection Group has promised that the community will maintain it's
non-violent direct action protest against Alcoa, until they abandon
all plans to build a smelter in Trinidad and Tobago.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

As bauxite prospecting begins at Atiwa Forest OKYENHENE condemns mining activities in Ghana

The OKYENHENE, Osagyefuo Amoatia Ofori Panin, King of Akyem Abuakwa, has censured the mining industry in Ghana, describing it as non-beneficial to the state. He has thus renewed his commitment to protecting the ecologically important Atiwa Forest Reserve (AFR) from the ravages of mining. Osagyefuo, an internationally noted advocate of environmental conservation, told The Chronicle in an exclusive interview at his Ofori Panin Fie in Kyebi that the history and record of the Ghanaian mining industry proved that the nation had not benefited from the industry as expected and as other countries with similar natural resources have benefited. “Let me correct this impression that I am against mining,” he noted. “I have all along suggested that the laws regulating the industry ought to be changed. There is no equity in the present arrangement; there must be shared benefits and shared burdens.” He Majesty was sure “this is because, the sector’s contribution to government revenue and to local communities have been relatively minimal.” The influential traditional leader noted that his position had always been that Ghanaians own the ore and for that matter they should be able to bargain with strength and negotiate hard for better deals. He said over the years, multi-nationals in the minerals extraction industry have enjoyed huge capital allowances, tax holidays, cheap labour and the practice of deferred royalty payments. “But despite this gesture from the nation, they have consistently been insensitive to the plight of the locals and I think it is morally wrong,” he opined. He said the city of Johannesburg in South Africa, for example, was completely transformed as a result of the gold deposit found there since 1886, stressing that today Johannesburg had become a major city in the world and was preparing to host the world cup in 2010. Narrowing down on the Ghanaian situation, he opined that Obuasi, Ghana’s richest gold town, had not seen any type of upliftment or transformation over the years; a situation that is “very say indeed”. “I think Obuasi and other mining towns such as Akwatia, where I grew up, Tarkwa, Prestea, Bibiani, among others, deserve better treatment. “These communities have suffered and continue to suffer various degrees of adverse impact of mining operations such as mining-related diseases, contamination of local drinking water, land destruction, youth unemployment and inadequate housing,” the Akyem Abuakwa overlord reiterated. The King pointed out that according to the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development, in 1981, 61% of the people in mineral exporting countries lived on less than one dollar a day, and that by the year 2000, the percentage had increased to 82%; a situation that clearly indicated that more and more people are coming to live under the poverty line, and which he considered very unfortunate. Expressing his know-how in economics and a bit of statistics, he noted that Ghanaians have been told that mining is the leading earner of foreign exchange in the country. He recalled that in the 2004 budget statement, it was captured that mineral export amounted to USD830, 000,000.00 out of the total export revenue of USD2, 397,200,000.00, constituting 36% of total exports. He analyzed that in real terms, the mining sector contributes only 1.5% to the gross domestic product. On the basis of the analysis, Osagyefuo argued that the extractive industries are not making any significant and decisive contribution to the economy and do not hold the key to the sustainable development of our country. He said the situation clearly indicated that more and more people were going to live under the poverty line, adding that the country did not have any visible socio-economic gains as a result of the mining activities in spite of what the proponents of mining would want to demonstrate. The King who agreed to the paper’s request to have him speak on his position on the mining exploration rights given to a bauxite mining company, Alcoa, for mining in the AFR, intimated that mining companies in Ghana operate under highly favourable and profitable conditions and yet do not care to make any meaningful contributions to the development of their operational communities. “We certainly hope that as far as the bauxite is concerned, Alcoa will be different and I’m sure the sector ministry and the leadership in this country will include all stakeholders in the negotiations to transact contracts that will be equitable to all sides,” he implored. His Majesty said he was reliably informed and assured by a team of experts who conducted a biodiversity survey at Atiwa, sponsored by ALCOA, that the numerous unique and significant species and the water bodies plus the flora will not be threatened. The overriding question is: what about the long-term economic and social development of the area? “For the most part, all they do is provide a handful of boreholes, a few classroom blocks and other petty charities in the name of social responsibility, “ he said. Osagyefuo, who has so far demonstrated his commitment to the preservation of the environment through his Okyenman Environment Foundation, indicated that it was the natural resources of developed countries that made its citizens wealthy, but lamented that Ghana with all its natural resources still found majority of her citizens poor. To him, the situation is so because mining laws do not offer the necessary opportunities for citizens to own mineral properties. “Let me give an example: recently, the Saudi prince who came to buy the Ambassador Hotel is capable of making investments all over the world as a result of the oil deposits in his country. But who in Ghana can we say is rich because of Ghana’s mineral endowment?” He reminded, “The President’s vision was to make Ghana a middle-income country by 2015; we support that. But for us to be a wealthy nation, the Ghanaian citizen must be wealthy and the only way to achieve that is for us to own and control part of our mineral resources. “Property ownership is a key component to successful economic conditions.” His Majesty reiterated. “If they are coming just for their profits, then we don’t need them.” Source: The Ghanaian Chronicle, Accra - 6.9.2006