Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Public must vote on smelter

October 24, 2006

Chairman of the Cancer Society Dr George Laquis yesterday said a referendum should be held for the aluminium smelters to be established in Trinidad and Tobago.

The Cancer Society issued a media release last month announcing that it was gathering information to determine the health implications of the proposed smelter plant.

“In order to provide a factual, evidence-based opinion on the potential health implications, the Cancer Society is working with health care and industry experts and will soon share the results of its findings publicly.

The Cancer Society is focused on the health implications and therefore has no opinion with respect to any economic benefits that may exist,” the release had said.

In an interview yesterday, Dr Laquis said the decision to build the plants should not be made by the Government only.

: “Something as important as this the Government should go out and educate on the facts not on the political level. Present the facts, benefits. We need to have a referendum.” He said the society needed to take a stand on the issue.

Laquis said the implications of the smelter would be felt by future generations if it should turn out to be an environmental disaster and the country “might not be able to foot the medical bill.” He said he was not passing judgement but stressing the need for widespread public input.

Laquis said he has been researching the smelter issue and getting different views, including those from Cedros residents and Alcoa officials. He said: “I find it very difficult to arrive at an opinion. Everyone on either side is glib.”

The smelter may be important economically or environmentally disastrous but Laquis said he wants to know the truth and that was “extremely difficult to come by.”

The Cancer Society will issue a statement “based on evidence.” Laquis said the evidence would be scutinised to ensure the conclusions were factual.

The Environmental Manage-ment Authority (EMA) has given Alcoa permission to conduct a comprehensive and public environmental impact assessment on the Cap-de-Ville site where the company proposes to construct its controversial aluminium smelter.

Alutrint plans to establish a smelter in La Brea.


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