Wednesday, November 29, 2006

MP Achong under probe

by Richard Charan
Trinidad Express
November 29, 2006

Point Fortin Member of Parliament Larry Achong is being investigated by police about the language he allegedly used at a town meeting organised by TV6's Morning Edition programme.
The meeting was held to discuss construction of the proposed aluminium smelter at Chatham, which is in Achong's constituency. Statements taken from two people allege that he mouthed an obscenity.
The investigation was ordered by Senior Superintendent Samuel Jemmott, days after the broadcast of the meeting which was hosted by journalist Andy Johnson and held at the Chatham Youth Centre.
Jemmott spent his last days in the South Western Division yesterday after his sudden transfer to the Central Division.
He is being replaced by Snr Supt Krishna Maharaj.
The investigation is being led by an Acting Sergeant assigned to the Point Fortin police station.
The investigator has interviewed Johnson at CCN's Independence Square, Port of Spain headquarters.
The police have also viewed a tape-recording of the meeting.
CCN is the parent company of the Express and TV6.
Last night, sources said that two people interviewed had given statements and were willing to testify.
Achong is still to be questioned.
The woman to whom Achong mouthed an alleged obscenity, was visited yesterday by the police asking for a statement on what she heard.
The woman, who asked that her name not be used, said she refused to help the police.
She said she remained fearful of being a witness.
The public forum heard the views of several Chatham residents who rejected Government's plan to relocate the village and allow Alcoa to build the smelter.
Several groups have called for Achong to apologise to his constituents and resign as MP.
Achong has said he did not curse and has refused to apologise or quit office.
Achong has said that as an elected Member of Parliament he cannot be fired.
Prime Minister Patrick Manning and other PNM politicians have said nothing publicly on the issue.

From the Frying Pan into the Red Mud

by John Maxwell
Jamaica Observer
November 26, 2006

We are all Maroons now, whether we know it or not, wherever we are on the face of the Earth, whoever we are, black, white or in-between, male or female, human, as long as we are alive, animal or vegetable, on land or in the sea or the air, our very existence is under attack.
If we want to survive we have to take action. We need to resist the destruction of our own and our planet's integrity, resist degradation and deformity and protect ourselves from extinction.
We are under siege by a system gone mad, an economic system gone berserk, unaccountable to anyone and responsible to nothing because this system has no rules. It can do anything it wants to anyone, any living organism.
It is destroying oceans, mountains and entire ecosystems, and with giant dams, even slowing the revolution of the Earth. It destroys everything in its way, creatingdeserts out of fertile land, submerging low-lying lands, poisoning the air webreathe, altering weather systems in unpredictable ways and producing more destructive hurricanes and typhoons, even slowing down the mighty Gulf Stream itself, destroying the ice-cover at the North Pole, breaking up the ice continent of Antarctica into icebergs bigger than Jamaica and threatening life itself everywhere on Earth.
It is a system described by George Soros, one of the world's richest men, as "Gangster Capitalism".
On the world stage it calls itself 'globalisation'. On the local stage, everywhere, its adherents call it 'Development'.
In this system, everything and everyone is for sale. Human dignity itself becomes a marketable commodity, affordable to those with enough money to buy themselves a little time.
In Vietnam 40 years ago, the Americans thought they were buying time and safeguarding progress. The Domino Theory was ascendant, and South-East Asia was to be made safe for democracy.
This ideal led to the killing and maiming of hundreds of thousands of people, some American, some Vietnamese. Here is the story of three Americans:
The son speaks: "The areas around us were heavily defoliated, so defoliated that they looked like burned-out areas, many of them. You know, almost every day that you were in riverboat patrol, you were being subjected to the Agent Orange factor."
The father speaks: "It is the case that the particular area in Vietnam in which my son's boat operated a great deal of the time was an area that was sprayed up on my recommendation, and in that sense it's particularly ironic that in a sense, if the causal relationship can be established, I have become an instrument of my son's own tragedy."
The son is Elmo Zumwalt III, son of Elmo Zumwalt II, Admiral and Chief of Naval Operations of the USA. Elmo the younger died at 42, destroyed by cancers induced by Agent Orange. His father died 11 years later, aged 79.
While serving as Commander of US naval forces in Vietnam from 1968 to 1970 the elder Zumwalt had ordered the spraying of the defoliant Agent Orange in the Mekong Delta, seeking to deny cover to snipers on the river banks.
The older Zumwalt killed his son. His son's genes, deformed by Agent Orange, severely damaged his grandson's nervous system resulting in serious learning disabilities. He is unable to speak for himself.
Hundreds of thousands of South-East Asians were also killed and maimed by Agent Orange and many of their children have been born and are now being born dead, disabled or hideously deformed.
Agent Orange is a mixture of two phenoxyl herbicides 2,4-dichlorophenoxyacetic acid (2,4-D) and 2,4,5 trichlorophenoxyacetic acid (2,4,5-T). These were developed for agro-industry factory farming to control broad-leaved weeds. In broad-leaved plants they induce rapid, uncontrolled growth, eventually killing them. There were used all over the world by the middle of the 1950s. At least one extension officer in Jamaica, my friend 'Buddha' Webster, was killed by exposure to this toxin.
It was later learned that a dioxin, 2,3,7,8-tetrachlorodibenzo-para-dioxin (TCDD), is produced as a by-product of the manufacture of 2,4,5-T, and was thus present in any of the herbicides that used it. This chemical is among those now present in the waters of Kingston Harbour, and as I pointed out five years ago, redistributed in the dredging of the harbour.
TCDD is a carcinogen, frequently associated with soft-tissue sarcoma, Non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, Hodgkin's disease and chronic lymphocytic leukaemia (CLL). 2,4,5-T has since been banned for use in the US and many other countries. Its initial effects include liver damage, loss of energy and diminished sex drive.
During the 1970s, at the height of the destabilisation of the Manley government, I saw at Newport East, a big transformer built for JPS dropped onto the quayside, breaking open and spilling into the harbour gallons of dioxins, which remain there to this day.
Almost all the countries now described as 'developing' or 'underdeveloped' share one major characteristic: for hundreds of years their people, their lands, their resources have provided the raw materials for the development of the so-called 'developed world'.
As one American comic has said: "What is our oil doing underneath Iraq and Venezuela?"
Almost every war ever fought and most of today's wars and civil wars derive from the idea that the strong are entitled to the resources of the weak because the weak don't know how to use their resources appropriately. In this perspective, Jamaican farmland is not serving its proper purpose by producing food. Jamaican bauxite is necessary for 'progress' to make more planes, more frying pans, more garbage and to stiffen the GDP.
In Rio de Janeiro, 14 years ago, political leaders and bureaucrats from all over the world (including P J Patterson) met to agree on a new compact to define development or 'progress' if you will. They signed the Treaty of Rio, otherwise known as Agenda 21, and it committed the nations of the world to work together to assure the survival of the planet and all the living things which inhabit it by adopting and practising sustainable development.
The first paragraph of the preamble of the treaty is worth remembering: "Humanity stands at a defining moment in history. We are confronted with a perpetuation of disparities between and within nations, a worsening of poverty, hunger, ill health and illiteracy, and the continuing deterioration of the ecosystems on which we depend for our well-being."
Environmentalists put it more crudely: We are living beyond our means, overdrawing our credit from the earth, destroying finite resources for greed.

The oil industry is only now waking up to the prospect that its behaviour may condemn all of us to a future of darkness, disease and destitution; only now beginning to recognise that there is an imminent threat of catastrophic changes because of global warming. Even Mr Bush (USA) and Mr Howard of Australia seem to be seeing the light. The Chinese seem to have some way to go before they emerge from their tunnel of development.
In the Rio statement on sustainable development, the world's leaders acknowledged "the integral and interdependent nature of the Earth, our home" and proclaimed as the first principle of development that: "Human beings are at the centre of concerns for sustainable development. They are entitled to a healthy and productive life in harmony with nature."
Progress is today defined by measuring how much of one's patrimony can be safely delivered into the hands of developers. We offer them incentives to come to despoil our patrimony, abuse and deform our social relations and generally disinherit us. In gracious exchange they will make billions of tax-free dollars and demonstrate how different they are to the rest of the miserable and oppressed of the earth. In return we can go live in the Bronx.
All over the world, indigenous populations are counselled to be investor friendly, to assist the despoliation of their holy mountains in Chile; the poisoning of their streams and the deforestation of their landscapes in New Guinea; the displacement, murder and rape of thousands to make way for oil pipelines in Burma (Myanmar). The progress-bringers are destroying the glaciers of Iceland, the Jarrah forests of Western Australia and the communal tranquility of the Cedros peninsula in Trinidad.

The 2005 Yale/Columbia Environmental Sustainability Index (ESI) showed Trinidad and Tobago as having the worst percentage of negative land impacts of 146 countries, yet Trinidad's government is ignoring the protests of its people who don't want any more pollution and degradation of their small and beautiful island.

Public protests in Chile, Brazil and Vietnam have kept proposed aluminum smelters out of those countries. The Trinidadian citizens group Cedros Peninsula United say that when they managed to obtain a copy of Alcoa's (secret) environmental clearance, jointly signed by Alcoa and the government's energy corporation, they found it full of omissions, inaccuracies and outright false statements.
The Barrick Corporation of Canada, like Alcoa, a transnational despoiler of the environment, is proposing to mine 500 tonnes of gold from mountain peaks in Chile. The Barrick corporation intends (Listen to This!) to relocate three glaciers (rivers of ice) to get at the gold.
As you might imagine, the people of Chile are not accepting this proposed rape of their environment.
The proposed assault on the Cockpit Country is not simply an assault on the sensibilities of a few environmentalists. It is an affront to the whole of humanity. When the great devastation comes we won't be saved by bauxite or alumina, but by the species finding shelter in the land of 'Look Behind' and similar refuges around the world.
A hundred years ago Jules Verne described the Gulf Stream as "the sea's greatest river [and] we must pray that this steadiness continues because ...if its speed and direction were to change, the climates of Europe would undergo disturbances whose consequences are incalculable".
The sea's greatest river is slowing down, and the consequences have been calculated. A few weeks ago the British government published a report by Sir Nicholas Stern on the economic consequences of climate change. The report says the possibility of avoiding a global catastrophe is "already almost out of reach",
Stern says changes in weather patterns could drive down the output of the world's economies by up to £6 trillion a year by 2050, an amount equivalent to almost the entire output of the EU. This catastrophic prospect is the direct result of 'progress' as defined by people who have more money than conscience.
If the Gulf Stream slows to a stop or even if it simply continues to slow down, the effects on climate, farming and the populations of the world will be in one word, disaster.
Joseph Stiglitz, Nobel Prize economist of 2001 and former chief economist of the World Bank says, "The Stern Review of the Economics of Climate Change makes clear that the question is not whether we can afford to act, but whether we can afford not to act. [The report] provides a comprehensive agenda, one which is economically and politically feasible, behind which the entire world can unite in addressing this most important threat to our future well-being."
Neither Stern nor Stiglitz (nor Soros) is some wool-gathering tree-hugger. They are among the people recognised as the brightest in the world. I prefer to believe them rather than some public relations flack from any aluminium company or the Port Authority or any other agency of the Jamaican government.
The Spanish hotels on the North Coast are disasters in their own right and will soon become catastrophic losses because of sea level rise and hurricanes. And we will pay for that as we will pay for the 'Doomsday Highway' which is already obsolete.
As I pointed out in my column, People at Risk in February 2002, some of the geniuses of the Jamaican 'development' process tolerate no opposition to 'progress'. They will destroy our coral reefs and degrade the harbour to take bigger container ships - themselves extinct within 20 years. At that time I reported that the bottom of Kingston Harbour contained several extremely dangerous substances and warned that PAJ dredging would redistribute them unpredictably and in a manner which would almost certainly be hazardous to health, particularly to the people of Portmore.
I reported that among toxins present were: Arsenic, Cadmium, Dioxins (including derivatives of Agent Orange), Lead, Lindane, Hexachlorobenzene, Tetrachloroethylene and good, old Mad Hatter's Mercury.
"Progress' has brought civil war, genocide and HIV/AIDS to Africa. It has deformed our politics, driven away our best and brightest all in search of the Holy Grail of 'development',
We can eat Trelawny yam and gungo peas. We can't eat Red Mud, although we may have to drink it, if progress has its way with the 'Land of Look Behind'. Prosit!

Copyright©2006John Maxwell

Sunday, November 26, 2006

The Smelter: Manning's Tipping Point?

by Selwyn Ryan
Trinidad Express
November 26, 2006

The outcome of the American Congressional elections may have some relevance to contemporary politics in Trinidad and Tobago. That election saw the Republicans, who had been hyper-dominant in the American political firmament at all levels, taking a "thumping" that served to change the mood and the landscape of American domestic and international politics for sometime to come.

In 2000, George Bush narrowly "won" the office of the Presidency, courtesy the Electoral College and the Supreme Court. Bush however governed as if he had won power by a landslide. His majority was amplified considerably by the events of 9/11. Following that event, Bush seized the reins of the Presidency and bullied a frightened nation into submission.

America was at war and one either did things his way or ran the risk of being suspected or accused of being unpatriotic. All the separate branches of the Government became aligned as they had not been for some years. Congress became the "broken branch." The Republican hegemony seemed permanent as the mood of the country lurched to the right. Many Americans feared that they had not only lost the security which they enjoyed by reason of their geography, but their civil liberties as well.

In 2004, Bush again won the Presidency, this time convincingly so. A triumphal and imperial President boasted that he had won a chunk of political capital and that he was going to spend it.. He, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Rice and the other "Vulcans" were riding high and sought to reshape the world in general and the Middle East in particular in their neo-conservative image. America would not only be the world's super policeman and enforcer but would also spearhead a crusade to pacify and bring democracy and enlightenment to the benighted masses of the Middle East. All this was underpinned by America's concern for energy and physical security .

Things did not however turn out as expected, thanks in part to the resistance put up by a gaggle of "nasty" rogue leaders in Iran, North Korea, Venezuela, and of course Iraq.

Until November 6, Bush was in denial. The more elusive victory became in those theatres, the more stubborn he, Cheney, and Rumsfeld became. Defeat in fact seemed to stiffen their resolve.

They boasted that they had a clear vision of what they had to do, and knew that it was right. As Cheney put it, "we are not running for office. We are doing what we think is right". The American people were told that they had to stay the course until victory was won.

The American people, or enough of them, however believed otherwise, and switched their franchise to the Democrats who notwithstanding pervasive gerrymandering, recaptured control of both Houses of Congress and several state houses after a lapse of some 12 years. Even while admitting electoral defeat, Bush is still seeking to persuade himself and others that all is not lost, and that victory will eventually be won.

What does this narrative have to do with Trinidad and Tobago? One is tempted to make a comparison between the leadership style of President Bush and that of Prime Minister Manning. My considered view is that Mr Manning means well, but that he is wrong to dismiss or ignore the voices of the citizenry on a matter such as an aluminium smelter which can affect the fundamentals of their life. It is clear that many feel very strongly about the matter, and nothing has been said that persuades them that the risks which they are being asked to take are worth the candle. The smelter is neither good economics, nor is it good politics in a society in which people have the opportunity and the incentive to vote and in other ways to make their views felt.

In the case of the US, Mr Bush's stubborn insistence that he "would stay the course" in Babylon (Iraq) no matter what, proved his undoing. He was punished. I have a feeling that the smelter would prove to be the "tipping point" that could lead to Mr Manning's undoing. Mr. Manning, like Bush, believes that his Government knows what is right and that everyone else is either dotish or driven by emotion, politics or ethnic competition. My instinct however tells me that history will adjudge Mr. Manning to have been the one who was wrong.

Mr Manning has since agreed to sponsor a symposium on December 6 where the issues will be fully ventilated, but he has however contrived to send a message that the smelter train is coming down the track at full speed and nothing will derail it. The general view is that the symposium is intended to secure legitimacy for a project that has already been baked into the policy pie.

It is not very clear just why the Prime Minister and some of his policy advisers are so intent that smelter must be built. One suspects that there is more in the mortar than the pestle, and that it is not merely the promise of jobs or economic sustainability that is driving the project. My hunch is that there is a geopolitical premise that has not been made articulate, and that the South West peninsula is being seen as space that is vital to American security and energy concerns. Perhaps this will surface at the symposium. In the meantime, I think it is reckless to insist on building the smelter, whatever the short or long term costs.

Friday, November 24, 2006

YES tt slams 'invitation only' smelter symposium

by Kimberly Mackhan
Trinidad Express
November 24, 2006

A decision by the State-owned National Energy Corporation (NEC) to invite only selected candidates to a symposium on the construction of two aluminium smelter plants earmarked for South Trinidad has provoked a non-partisan group to brand the meeting as an illegitimate consultation.

YEStt chairman, Stephen Cadiz, yesterday criticised NEC and the South Trinidad Chamber of Industry and Commerce, who will be collaborating to host a public meeting on December 6 on the establishment of the smelter plants, for limiting the meeting to strictly invited members.

"It is absurd that the public meeting on the smelters for interest groups by means of a symposium, organised by the NEC, is by invitation only," Cadiz said.

"This symposium on the smelters is yet another smoke screen by the Government and cannot be considered a legitimate consultation."

He added: "The South Chamber of Commerce now says that 350 persons could attend the symposium but by invitation only. Who is the person making up the 'guest list' and what could possibly be the criteria for getting 'picked' for this all inclusive?"

Cadiz made reference to comments that were previously made by Prime Minister Patrick Manning. He pointed out that Manning had indicated that "Government has looked very carefully at the situation and believes the time has come to make some kind of positive intervention to ensure that the situation is clarified in the public domain".

Cadiz also stressed that Manning had publicly stated that Government had decided to ensure that the public would be properly informed in a forum that discussed the issue dispassionately.

He added that there was supposed to be a debate in Parliament following these public consultations.

Cadiz emphasised that YEStt was "totally against" the development of any aluminum smelter industry in Trinidad and Tobago.

"We must explore other options of development which would ensure sustainability for our country," he said.

"The Keith Noel 136 Committee, through its referendum earlier this year, got just under 50,000 respondents saying that for major projects-such as the construction of a smelter plant-there should be full disclosure before any decision is made. A select group of 350 persons does not, by any means, represent full disclosure and transparency."

More licks over smelter talks limits

by Phooloo Danny-Maharaj
Trinidad Express
November 24, 2006

More criticisms were heaped on the plan by the South Trinidad Chamber of Commerce to invite selected stakeholders to a symposium on plans to build aluminium smelters in Trinidad.

The Oilfields Workers Trade Union and the United National Congress (UNC) yesterday hit out at the invitation-only plan to discuss the smelters, which have generated opposition from people from all walks of life.

OWTU president general Errol McLeod described the chamber's decision as a travesty. The UNC said the decision to invite only 250 people was "contemptuous" and nullified the promise of widespread national participation.

They were referring to the symposium to be held on December 6 at the Paria Suites Hotel, La Romaine.

Discussions will focus on the proposed aluminium smelter for Chatham and the opposition to it by environmentalists and residents.

Another smelter is to be built at La Brea.

The symposium was organised by the chamber in collaboration with the National Energy Corporation (NEC).

Chamber chief executive officer Thackwray Driver has said it would be by invitation and that some 250 stakeholders have been invited.

McLeod said the union was not invited and would not attend even if invited.

He said for the chamber to be the host of the consultation and the process used to determine who should attend was questionable.

"Even if we are invited we would not attend because the chamber organising this makes it a farce," he said.

The UNC, describing the chamber's decision as "shocking", said it "puts a lie to the promise of Prime Minister Patrick Manning of dialogue on all the disputed aspects of the proposed smelter. The move to curtail participation proves, yet again that the government has never been serious about national discussions on the smelters".

Chamber CEO Driver said foreign experts would attend the symposium and that it would be open to the public, religious groups, government workers, businesses, members of the public but priority would be given to the stakeholders, groups and schools from the south-west peninsula.

The objective of the symposium is to provide information and to promote discussion on the development of the aluminium industry in the country as outlined by Manning in his recent post-Cabinet press briefing, Driver has said.

Letter to the Editor- Still waiting for smelter answers

I am the young woman who was told to shut up at the TV6 forum held at the Chatham Youth Centre on November 9. I would like to point out that MP Achong didn’t just tell me to shut up; he said it to every concerned citizen of T&T. It is my hope that we will all do the exact opposite.

We should not forget the reason behind the forum and the still unresolved issues. I think that we all need to refocus on the original issues here: the introduction of aluminium industries in Trinidad, the processes by which decisions are being made, and the feeling that the public’s opinions are being ignored.

I did not attend this public forum as an anti-smelter activist but as a citizen seeking more information and answers pertaining to the issues. The point I tried to make that night was that this issue is one of national importance and that all citizens are stakeholders and are entitled to information regardless of their place of residence.

Also, I want to point out that I have not yet received an answer to my question: “The people of Chatham have everything to lose…what do the people who are in favour of the smelters stand to lose?”

This is an important question as any development will have its gains and losses and the people of this country need to assess what they are willing to loose or risk losing for the benefits which aluminium smelting will bring to the country.

We must continue to let our concerns and questions be heard. Alcoa will be hosting two public consultation meetings on Tuesday and Wednesday at the Chatham Youth Centre and at the St John’s Ambulance Hall (Port-of-Spain), respectively. Also, the Government will be having a symposium on the issue on December 6.

Our Members of Parliament are (or should be) willing to listen to your concerns through a letter or personal visit. We have every right to know the price at which our gas will be sold; we are entitled to demand that our land and our water be protected by the strictest possible environmental laws and the most rigorous monitoring and enforcement standards necessary.

We deserve to have our needs, dreams and expectations taken into account in the development of the south-western peninsula of our island.

One of the most poignant sentiments expressed at the meeting in question was that the land that people in Chatham live on has been handed down from generation to generation. They are trying to protect their inheritance and we should do the same. The social, environmental and economic implications of what happens in Chatham will affect all of us. We cannot afford to “shut up!”

I would like to expand on a question raised by one of Achong’s young constituents: what do we as a nation have to lose in the face of this proposed development?

We are still waiting for an answer.

Srishti Mohais

Government has no back bone

Much attention has been placed on the alleged remarks made by Mr. Larry Achong at the Chatham Youth Centre two Thursdays ago. What the public should realize is that the dogmatic approach of the Member of Parliament has emanated from the head of governance and transcends the smelter issue. It is the view that the honourable Prime Minister believes that he holds the ability to manipulate the citizens of Trinidad and Tobago in whichever ad hoc direction he feels. The Hon. Eric Williams held a unique position in our nation’s history as our first prime minister. The political arena was fairly virgin territory and he was able to invoke in nationals a deep sense of commitment and loyalty to him and his party. However, the Hon. Patrick Manning has not done anything that would cause nationals to senselessly and blindly follow him in any direction he chooses. We live in a time when more people are being educated and are able to make viable contributions towards the nation’s development. There is neither room nor any need for a dictator here, nor is there room for one who seeks to make mockery of the tenets of democracy.

This leads me to the plight of the residents of Chatham on what is and can only be described as a national issue. While those residents have been more vociferous than others, we in sweet Trinidad and Tobago should realize that these proposed smelter plants would affect us all. Maybe what we need to do is take it home, and not believe that because Chatham is an area some of us have never visited, that we are far removed from it. How would you like to be forced to change location after living in your home for years, after having your family history tied there with numerous cherished memories? Additionally, have we really thought about the farmers and fishermen of the area who after decades of perfecting these skills and passing on their knowledge to younger generations are now forced to learn a new skill for survival? These are just two of many social issues, but is the government of the day concerned with the negative social effects?

No government of our twin island Republic has had a good track record regarding preservation of our environment and proper management of our limited resources. We have always been contented with taking rather than replenishing; spending rather than properly investing; using rather than saving. Such mismanagement signals our lack of appreciation and ownership of this land of our birth. It is not surprising then how easily our government is willing to sell and dispense of what is ours for a few dollars. Power states and large conglomerates dangle the promise of money in our faces and as spineless worms we accept.

Basic economics teaches us to allocate our scarce resources towards the achievement of our unlimited needs. But the government is not even meeting some of our basic needs. Health care is one contentious issue plaguing our society, why does the government want to introduce yet another mechanism that can add to the already adverse situation? It has been reported that workers from smelter plants are at high risk from lung injuries due to exposure to quartz sand, clay, resin, loams, airborne metals and other substances. There are fears that the smelters will create electromagnetic fields (EMF)s. EMF from direct current causes cancer, other harmful emissions from aluminium smelters are clearly dangerous.

Studies in Australia found that hydrogen fluoride, inspirable dust, and sulphur dioxide from aluminium smelters caused respiratory problems such as asthma, wheezing, and chest tightness in workers. A 30-year study by the University of Calgari found in 2004 that aluminium smelter workers in Sardinia, Italy, exposed to polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons were between 2.4 and 5 times more likely to die of pancreatic cancer. In Norway, the Department of Horticulture and Crop Sciences studied three aluminium smelters and concluded that even low emissions of fluoride caused serious damage to nearby vegetation. The question is; Why take such risks with people’s health?

To date, there hasn’t been an independent non-politically affiliated body, which possessed the will and resolution to investigate the true effects that current industrial sites have had on their surrounding environment. The south - western coast is always in a state of permanent sunset, as a result of the massive flare burning in Point Fortin. Which environmental authority manages that? We play Mickey-mouse games with laws and acts in this country, as they are never adhered to and executed. Who is to say that after agreements have been signed that any of these companies; Alcoa, Alutrint or Mitsubishi, will maintain accepted industrial standards? Who is going to oversee that emissions are disposed of in the standard manner? What about the toxic solid waste; spent potlining (SPL)? Where is that going to be disposed of? There are more questions than there are answers.

It is believed that when one values his land, he takes pride in it, he guards it with his life, and no amount of money, not even US$1.5billion would cause him to give it up. We expect that those we have entrusted with the responsibility of safeguarding our legacy, our birthright will do so vehemently and passionately. We expect them to stand up against any super-power, because they posses a firm back bone. If this is not the case, then we have the wrong group of people as our leaders. Sweet Trinidad and Tobago does not need the Smelters, they need us. Where is our resolve?

A. Reid

Thursday, November 23, 2006


Only people who receive invitations will be allowed into a symposium on the aluminum industry next month.
The event is being staged by the South Trinidad Chamber of Industry and Commerce in collaboration with the State-owned National Energy Corporation, at the Paria Suites Hotel, La Romaine, on December 6.
Chamber chief executive officer, Thackwray Driver, said yesterday that 250 stakeholders had been invited, but he declined to say whether Prime Minister Patrick Manning would attend, or the extent of Government involvement in the meeting of stakeholders on the controversial setting up of aluminum smelters in the country.
Driver said: "Invitations have been sent out to stakeholders from across the island. Some 250 people are expected to attend, but I cannot say if the Prime Minister would be there."
Earlier this month at a post-Cabinet media briefing, Manning said that the Government would hold a symposium on the plan at month end. He said depending on what comes out of that symposium, his administration would rethink its position on the smelters, which have drawn protests from environmentalists, villagers living near the proposed sites of the plants at Point Fortin and La Brea and politicians.
He had indicated that the NEC would hold the one-day symposium along with other groups.
As such, it was felt that the Government would have an input in the December 6 event. A source at the Chamber, however, said that Manning was not invited to that symposium.
Fitzroy Beache, president of the Cap-de-Ville/Chatham Environment Protection Group, one of the most vocal opponents of the proposed Point Fortin plant, said his group would not attend the symposium because "it is only by invitation".
He said: "If the Chamber was really interested in discussing the smelter and the effects on people's lives, it should have held it somewhere in Chatham for the public."
Beache said he would be leaving the country for three months to attend his daughter's graduation in the US, but assured villagers, "I am not deserting you. In my absence, the vice president and other members would carry on the struggle."
Chamber president, Rampersad Motilal, could not be reached for comment. He was said to be in a meeting
In a statement last week, Driver said international experts from the United States and other countries would attend the symposium, which would be open to the public, religious groups, government workers, businesses and members of the public, but priority would be given to the stakeholders, groups and schools from the South West Peninsula.
The objective of the symposium, he said, "is to provide information and to promote discussion on the development of the aluminum industry in the country as outlined (Manning) in his recent post-cabinet press briefing".
He said the Chamber had organised the symposium because "we are recognised as an independent, non-partisan association, which has consistently upheld the highest ethical standards and which has been actively involved in issues of national development for the past fifty years."

CPU invited to 'Shut Up"

Hello Everybody,

I got an interesting e-mail from the South Chamber of Commerce
The Secretary of the South Chamber wrote and asked for contact
information for the President of CPU to send him an invitation to the so-called
"Smelter Symposium" at Paria Suites.
My immediate reply, of course, was "are you asking the President of CPU
to make a presentation and speak at the symposium?"
The answer came back plain and simple "No"
I guess Larry Achong is not the only one that wants Anti Smelter
activists to simply 'Shut up'.
Please, members of all anti smelter groups, please make it clear to
these people that only invitations to speak and present will be considered by
us. We don't need another Alcoa P.R. lecture under the guise of 'consultation'

Cedros Press Office

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Chatham residents demand apology from Larry Achong

Residents of Chatham are demanding a public apology from Point Fortin MP Larry Achong for his behaviour at a recent public symposium held to discuss construction of smelter plants in their area.

Yesterday, residents, who joined together in the hosting of a Hindu puja in honour of Hindu deity Lord Hanuman, expressed disappointment at Achong’s un-apologetic behaviour.

A broadcast of Achong’s apparent use of obscene language at a public symposium in Chatham, which was held two Thursdays ago, has caused a public outcry.

Yesterday one resident called Sundar, addressing villagers said:

“I want to endorse that we are totally against people abusing people.”

The resident said Achong should immediately apologise—not only to citizens of T&T but to “the world, because this has reached the world (through) CNN.

“He has abused the whole country; we don’t condone this behaviour,” he added.

The Sunday Guardian learnt that pundits in the area had refused to perform the puja at the campsite, fearing reprisals.

But one pundit, who only gave his name as Pundit Maharaj, agreed to perform the puja. He admitted, though, that he, too, was afraid of reprisals and requested that his photo and name not be published. He said this was a condition for his participation in the puja.

He said the puja was being done out of love and that “this is not a protest or demonstration; this is devotion, devotion to the Lord.”

Father Wilfred John, together with pastor Muriel, delivered words of prayer and solace to the embattled residents.

John also petitioned God to give the residents strength “so they will not lose heart.”

Pundit Maharaj told the residents that “one of the worst situations can be turned into the best.”

He warned that “what you do with this human body, what you do with nature and creation is your gift back to God.”

The pundit also said, let the flags hoisted “fly for victory and protection not only for Chatham but for the whole of T&T.”

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Letter to the Editor Govt must pause on smelters

The Editor
Trinidad and Tobago Newsday
November 15, 2006

THE EDITOR: As a dedicated supporter of the PNM, I have thought long about expressing this opinion publicly. I have read the news and tried to be as impartial as possible and I now feel it important to call upon the honourable Prime Minister to seriously consider the path he is walking.

There has been so much condemnation of the smelters and more than just talk, people are bringing vital information on these projects to show how negatively it can impact on everyone in our country.

I myself visited the sites in the south and at the UWI campus where my son is attending and I must ask why has the Government taken such a highhanded approach? If people have concerns, whatever party they belong to they have a right to express those concerns and be heard. Mr Prime Minister, it is extremely wrong to attempt to label those concerns foolish! I heard Winston Dookeran on the Parliament Channel on Friday and he made some very substantial points about the lack of transparency in these projects and also about the level of manipulation that could be taking place with the environment agencies. These things cannot be brushed aside.

I am therefore calling on the Government to do as Dookeran has said and as a show of good faith, stop all activities on the smelters and only continue once their is popular support.

It would then be up to the Government to prove its case that what they are doing is in the interest of everyone.


Conflicting interests

by Julien Kenny
Trinidad Express
November 14, 2006

"Words, words, words, I'm so sick of words," said Eliza. Sometimes the speaker uses the same two or three words or phrases to mean the same thing. Does anyone remember the Revised National Environmental Policy that has been through the EMA, its Board, the Ministry of the Environment, the Minister, Cabinet and both Houses of Parliament? In the same paragraph - environmental justice and ecological justice.

Now we have before the end of this month a single symposium, seminar or consultation on what? The aluminium smelter issue. And who is organising it? The National Energy Corporation (NEC), the very same state agency that refused to co-operate with the constitutionally appointed body, a standing Joint Select Committee of both Houses, in providing answers regarding aluminium smelters, now presumably to be answered through the mechanism of a symposium/seminar/consultation!

A symposium is generally accepted to be a conference of professionals to discuss academic or specialist subjects, very often to chronicle progress in the development of knowledge of the subject material. Symposia involve many presenters and generally take considerable time in their organisation, months or even years, for a session that may last one, two, three or a few days. The organisers are usually highly experienced experts in their fields as well as good administrators. Usually symposia produce published proceedings some months after the event. There is an alternative meaning of the term - a drinking and hilarity party (derived from a Greek word). Presumably now that drinking alcohol is frowned upon there will be no such thing happening at the NEC symposium, although there might be some hilarity.

A seminar is also generally accepted to be a conference but is of a slightly different kind. Mostly it is a meeting of students or professionals in a university environment to discuss academic or specialist subjects, and a seminar usually involves a single presenter. The word is derived from the Latin seminarium, a place of teaching or learning, and is itself derived the Latin word semen or "seed".

Seminars are routinely employed today not only in universities but amongst diverse organisations. Some seminars will cost you plenty as the specialists in some fields make their living from chasing around the world extracting large fees. It is quite impossible to determine whether the upcoming event will be a seminar. It might adopt the form, with one or two specialist hirelings of the multinationals descending on us to tell us of the benefits of foreign direct investment.

A consultation can be anything you wish, from speaking to your banker or insurance agent or pharmacist or specialist physician, to a political meeting on a street corner when the world is promised. It could even be a meeting of a pastor with his church elders, a shining knight in the continuing battle against the evil of homosexuality, one who had the ears of Bush on a weekly basis, after being "outed" by his male prostitute. As for workshops - they are essentially day-release from boredom in the public service.

But let's be serious. If it is to be a proper symposium, can such a meeting really be organised in the mere three weeks left before the end of the month? As a general rule the longer the time available to the organisers, and the higher the calibre of the persons selected for lead papers, and the competence of the editors of the proceedings, the higher the quality and value of the symposium.

And the real questions are: Does the NEC have any experience in organising a symposium? Who will be the presenters? What will be the criteria for selection? If the performance of the NEC representatives before the JSC chaired by Senator Mary King is any guide I would be most surprised if they are able to carry it off. Remember that the NEC heavies as well as the aluminium smelter dons failed to accept a perfectly legitimate and reasonable request from the Chair to attend, while those who did simply could not answer many of the questions.

But there is an even greater cause for concern. By whatever standard one applies there is the issue of their fitness to organise such an important symposium in the light of their closeness to Alcoa, a clear conflict of interest. It becomes even more unsettling if one takes into account the fact that the original application for CEC by Alcoa came from the NEC, the Alcoa smelter being the principal bone of contention.

Consider also that the NGC clearly failed to meet the terms of the CEC granted by the EMA for the clearing of Union Estate. One can only guess that they are simply following their masters' orders. But just think. If the whole purpose of the symposium is a make or break issue about smelters in this country - why not simply freeze everything pro tem and go to Parliament with the final published symposium proceedings to have the matter debated thoroughly and democratically.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Former miners file suit against Alcoa

By Nathan Blackford-Warrick Publishing Online
November 08, 2006

Former miners and their families have alleged for nearly three years that waste dumped at the Squaw Creek Mine north of Boonville was the cause of a multitude of physical ailments. Now, 41 people - mostly miners and their spouses - have filed suit asking for damages from the mine's owner, Alcoa.

Starting in 1965, Alcoa disposed of various waste materials at Squaw Creek, including hexavalent chromium sludge and coal tar pitch, into open pits. There are at least 12 identified waste disposal sites in the north field of the Squaw Creek Mine.

The former miners contend that the waste was toxic and that Alcoa knew or should have known the danger the material posed to those who worked near it. The suit asks for unspecified monetary damages from Alcoa for negligence, infliction of emotional distress and loss of consortium.

The suit was filed with the Warrick County Circuit Court on Oct. 23. Attorney Peter Racher of the Indianapolis law firm Plews, Shadley, Racher and Braun is representing the plaintiffs.

“We feel very, very strongly that a responsible company would have exposed wastes of these types to a vulnerable population,” said Racher. “No one informed (the plaintiffs) that working with hexavalent chromium was harmful to human skin or human organs. No one told them that coal tar pitch contains many substances known or suspected of being human carcinogens.”

The suit contends that many of the plaintiffs have relatives or friends who have died from cancer as a result of exposure to toxic substances at Squaw Creek. That has caused them to worry about the “precariousness of their future health, the well being of their loved ones, and the looming imminence of premature death.”

Miners believe that they have suffered a wide range of health problems - though cancer is a main concern - from exposure to toxic waste. The suit claims that former mine workers “have been required to endure painful surgeries, radiation, chemotherapy and other treatments” due to effects from toxic waste.

But Alcoa says - as it has contended from the beginning - that the materials are not toxic and did not cause the health problems the miners have had.

“We've believed all along, and according to the information we've had, that those materials would not result in health impacts,” said Alcoa spokesperson Sally Rideout-Lambert. “These are not the type of materials that would cause these health problems.”

Racher disagrees.

“That is a very controversial position that Alcoa takes,” said Racher. “We think that the science had been in place for decades about the adverse human health impacts associated with the substances that were disposed of at the mine. And Alcoa knew that the people who would come in contact with these substances were untrained and unprotected.”

Racher says that the Material Safety Data sheets concerning coal tar pitch and hexavalent chromium sludge predict that chronic exposure to the materials will produce exactly the kinds of health effects suffered by the former miners.

“These people have suffered incredibly,” said Racher. “These are folks for whom honorable work at the mine was their livelihood. They expected that through hard work they would enjoy good lives. Instead, through hard work they got sick, and with illnesses that are life-threatening. Every one of these people, their lives have been completely upended.”

How much material was actually dumped at the mine is unclear. The United Mine Workers Union Local 1189 estimates that approximately 71 million cubic feet of chromium sludge and 69 million gallons of coal tar pitch were dumped. Lambert says those figures are estimates, generally based on how much waste could have been produced rather than by actual counts.

Alcoa owned the Squaw Creek Mine through a subsidiary known as Alcoa Fuels, Inc. Company officials have admitted that waste was dumped at the mine, though they have contended it was done by the rules.

Alcoa also set up a health screening program for the miners through the University of Cincinnati Center for Occupational Health. The final results of that study are not complete.

Mining ended in the north field at Squaw Creek in 1987, and the mine stopped all production in 1998. A 2004 report from the Indiana Department of Environmental Management indicates that the waste material has not moved or become a health hazard.

Another former miner, Bil Musgrave, had filed a similar lawsuit against Alcoa in February.

But that case has been delayed in federal court, and Racher said that the second suit, which is not a class-action, would be able to stay in the Warrick County courts.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Manning, Alcoa must come clean

by Raffique Shah
Trinidad Express
November 12, 2006

I think Alcoa spokesman Wade Hughes is "damn farse and outa place" (let him go learn our dialect) to suggest that Trinidad is "ideally positioned to become the aluminium hub of the Caribbean". But Hughes got his license to make such insulting pronouncements from none other than Prime Minister Patrick Manning. When the PM referred to his fellow citizens, distinguished and ordinary, as being "dotish", what could we expect from a "preferred" alien? Hughes and Alcoa, thanks to the "dotish" stance adopted by Manning and company on constructing aluminium smelters here, have been given "rank" over all of us natives. It was always this way as governments genuflected to multinational corporations, making them overlords of our nature-given resources.

To get to the meat of the matter, the concerns we have about establishing smelters here demand clear and honest answers. Firstly do we need such plants for additional revenue?

I addressed this in my previous column, suggesting that we do not, except that when both government and citizens want to wallow in wasteful consumerism, there can never be enough money. Greed drives us to seek not what we need, but what we want. Second by, what is the impact the Alcoa plant will have on the surrounding environment, more so on the aquifer that lies underground the site chosen? Manning said water in that area is not fit for human consumption. I suggest that several independent tests be conducted to determine the truth of this matter.

I emphasise proper determination of the quality of water held in this aquifer in light of the UN Human Development Report, due to have been released yesterday.

This report focuses heavily on the importance of water to the world, and the grave dangers that lie ahead as nations go to war over fresh water.

It will indicate (according to The Guardian, UK) that one billion people live without clean water and 2.6 billion lack access to sanitation. If, therefore, the Cap-de-Ville aquifer has water that can help alleviate our own water woes, then no way should we consider putting any industry there. This country needs to trap, conserve and utilise the abundance of fresh water we are blessed with.

The third, maybe most important concern that must be addressed, is pollution. There is an overabundance of evidence that these pollutants are detrimental to the health of human beings and animals in many ways. In Quebec, where there are aluminium plants, there are more human deaths from malignant tumours according to a study.

Dr Michael Weiner, a New York oncology specialist, points to "aluminium overload associated with a wide range of diseases, from anaemia to liver and cardio-toxicity and bladder cancer." But I need to focus a bit on spent pot lining (SPL) that seems to be almost as dangerous as nuclear waste (which takes 1,000 years to become sterile!).

Mr Manning said, in his address at La Brea, that "waste matter would be sent to Arkansas". Really, Mr Manning? There is every indicator that over the past two decades, smelters have shifted from the North to the global South. The main reason for that is the North is finally waking up to the ill-effects of such plants. So why would they now accept the most dangerous of aluminium wastes, SPL? Is Arkansas the Ivory Coast?

It gets fishier than that, though. Since 1992, an Australian research team funded by several aluminium companies, Alcoa included, claimed to have developed technology to "turn this intractable problem into economically useful products."

With some 500,000 tonnes of SPL being stored across the globe, scientists behind the project claimed that it could extract toxic fluoride from the smelter and save it for re-use, thus saving much money and solving an environmental problem. They claimed, too, that the remaining SPL could be reduced to "synthetic sand" and be used for road-making and concrete production. The core "SIROSMELT" technology, according to its creators, "extracts fluoride and destroys cyanide".

Why has Alcoa not adopted this mode of dealing with SPL? Why, if Manning is to be believed, are they shipping this "toxic bomb" to Arkansas, of all places? Something does not quite register right here. Clearly, both Mr Manning and Alcoa need to come clean-in more ways than one-with the people of this country. We are not fools, sirs. And I am not against industrialisation per se.

What I am against is multinational corporations or local industrialists playing "farse and loose" with the health of the population and the environment of this country, to the detriment of the current and future generations.

Beckles still awaiting Alutrint response to EMA

by Juhel Browne
November 12, 2006

Public Utilities Minister Pennelope Beckles says she has not yet received Alutrint's response to the Environmental Management Authority's deficiency report on the proposed Alutrint aluminium smelter.

Alutrint had reportedly submitted its response to the deficiency report on August 21, and the EMA was supposed to make a decision on the matter on October 16.

On October 17, the EMA said it had postponed its decision on the Alutrint response because the supplementary report was insufficient.

In its deficiency report, the EMA expressed its concerns that the hydrogen fluoride emissions from the 125,000-metric-tonne Alutrint smelter proposed for construction in La Brea would be too high and said the disposal of the potliners did not meet with the authority's approval.

Speaking in response to a motion raised by St Augustine MP Winston Dookeran during Friday's sitting of the House of Representatives at the Red House, Port of Spain, Beckles said the EMA had not yet concluded its analysis of the Alutrint proposal.

"Mr Deputy Speaker, as it related to the Alutrint smelter, the available information for all types of levels of emissions from the plant, any potential health risks to the residents and plans for waste disposal, I await the outcome of the EMA's review to the applicant's response to the deficiency report on the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA).

"Once the EMA has completed its analysis of the Alutrint EIA the results would be available, and those results would be made public," Beckles said.

As for the larger proposed 350,000-metric-tonne Alcoa smelter, Beckles said the Government was not yet in a position to make an informed statement on it.

"To date, the EMA has issued the terms of reference for the conduct of an Environment Impact Assessment for the smelter. As this EIA has not been conducted, there is no technical information to support an informed position on the type of pollutants that are likely to be emitted or likely to be released from the plant," she said.

"When the information on the Alcoa plant is approved and reviewed by the EMA, the result of the resulting review will be made public. In fact, Mr Deputy Speaker, the EIA must include at least four opportunities for public consultation facilitated by an independent facilitator at various stages in the process. Additionally, the EMA plans to make available independent experts to the community."

Thursday, November 09, 2006

CS who?

This is Trinidad and Tobago, land of contrast and contradiction. Land of a thousand faces, a thousand gods, a thousand ways to please the eye and the spirit and the palate.
Where we confuse freedom and freeness. Where we expect people to take responsibility for us in ways that we don’t take for ourselves.
More than ever now we stand at a kind of social and political crossroads.
This is manifest in the burgeoning social movements; constitutional reform, mobilization around crime and child protection and of course the anti-smelter lobby which has taken everyone by surprise, I daresay even the Honourable Prime Minister Patrick Manning who seems finally to be heeding the call for transparency in deals that of such great national importance.
The truth is that we cannot begin to have a discussion about Corporate Social Responsibility in Trinidad and Tobago without recognizing that the state must be the first point of social responsibility.
It was state force that Alcoa called upon to crush the protests of women and children on Foodcrop Road, Chatham in August. The police officers who protect the Bechtel and Trintoplan workers are representatives of the state.
How then, can we trust corporate entities to have our best interests at heart?
All the evidence, from the glowing tributes suggest that we natives of Trinidad and Tobago must be either illiterate or stark staring mad to want to fight against the most benevolent and sustainable company that alcoa is.
We ungrateful natives, how dare we refuse their trinkets?
multinationals operating in trinidad have done their homework and they understand the notion of freeness taking precedence over freedom.
they've learned it from the political parties: give them a t-shirt and they'll vote for you. Give them a ten day employment and they'll love you forever.
If we make the distinction between CSR and charity then we see that we in T&T have a problem. Because people love to give.
Every PR person wants their picture in the paper handing over a nice fat check to some grateful priest or elderly nun.
They love to be seen as generous. Never mind the company has atrocious labour relations, dodgy environmental records and openly and apologetically discriminates along gender and race lines.
CSR, in theory sounds good. These nice companies want to be your friends. This is why they come into your community with armed guards to have meetings with women and children.
This is why they endorse unsubstantiated reports of rape in a community.
CSR especially when it comes to multi-nationals, is a legitimisation of modern day conquistadors with shining glass beads to a post-colonial, rapidly industrializing small island state, still reeling from the inherited and un-dealt with burdens of slavery, indentureship and an economy that is still set up to reflect the privileged ones who own the plantations.
In this part of the world, we HAVE to make companies act responsibly. We demand that they do, or we will, by any means necessary get them out.

Penal oil explosions cause for concern

November 08, 2006

Dear Editor,
The current pipeline explosion in Penal raises serious questions. We
are extracting energy for over 100 years, and still we have no
emergency response plan in the event of a major disaster. "God is a
Trinidadian" stupidity is no joke.
In 2003, FFOS lost a major Judicial Review against the EMA and the
multinational BP for unexamined cross country gas pipeline risks. FFOS
lost since the judge considered it prejudicial against BP since it had
already spent 71 million US Dollars on 80" of gas transmission
pipelines. These pipelines pass dangerously close to schools, villages,
residential communities etc. Today we shudder to think of these still
unexamined risks and the extent of potential disaster. There is no
emergency response education in any areas including those of high risk.
There is no legal standard for the safe laying and testing of gas
pipelines, such as the globally accepted American Petroleum Institute
(API) Code 1104. The energy multinationals could never do in England or
the USA what they are permitted to do here.
In 1999 Finbar Gangar received a Draft National Emergency Response
Co-ordination Plan from a broad based Government appointed committee of
professionals. Regretfully, the now luxuriously retired Minister never
moved the document into Parliament, or anywhere at all, busy as he was
with secret closed door negotiations for the sale of minerals.
Succeeding Ministers of Energy were too busy (driving all over St
James) to act on the critical need for disaster response co-ordination
In 2000 the EMA was legally born, but they are still left out of the
central function of emergency response co-ordination of which they
should play a pivotal role.
In fact every one is left out since there is still no known or
published plan, and Parliament is snoring on the issue.
In 2001, after more than 300 hours of research, Fishermen and Friends
of the Sea (FFOS) prepared and presented a National Emergency Response
Co-ordination Plan and presented this plan to the energy tsars at the
Energy Conference held at the Trinidad Hilton that year. Regretfully,
no action was ever taken by the Government to investigate or implement
any such plan at allj.
A few years ago Techier Village exploded under another Petrotrin well
eruption. An entire village ran aground in the dark for three days like
mules without testicles. There was no plan for any aspect of emergency
reponse. Years later we have still done nothing to improve energy
disaster preparedness or response co-ordination mechanisms. There are
still no known shelters for displaced citizens, so where will they go?
St. Anns or Torouba? There are almost no ambulances on the National
grid, and so how will burn victims be transported in the event of a gas
fireball incineration from Guyaguyare or other remote communities? And
are there sufficient burn unit facilities to respond to a gas fireball
accident in any of the densely populated rural towns through which the
gas pipeline grid runs? Guyaguyare still has no fire station. There is
still no Hazardous Materials (HAZMAT) firefighting equipment anywhere
in Trinidad, not even next to the gaseous ALNG facilities or in the
Plipdeco compound. The chicken fast food fire in Point Fortin a few
years ago showed us all that there is not even water in the POINT
Fortin mains to fight fire. Is Port of Spain better? How will different
State agencies be co-ordinated in the event of a major gas fireball? Is
this the brilliance of 2020 vision, or continued negligence and
irresponsibility of the gravest nature? Instead of building boastful
sky scrapers shouldn't a caring father first ensure the safety of his
We continue to appeal to the Honourable Members of Parliament to call
on our big spending Government for these emergency response
co-ordination plans.
FFOS has been right too many times before: Please do not let us be
right on gas fireballs and the careless unpreparedness of communities
and Government agencies.

Gary Aboud
Fishermen and Friends of the Sea

Aluminiun Smelting Symposium

by John Spence
Trinidad Express
November 08, 2006

The decision by the Prime Minister to have the National Energy Corporation convene a national consultation on aluminium smelting is to be welcomed. However, the time and process applied to this exercise must commensurate with the significance of the proposal, and with the extent and nature of the public reaction. The issues are very complex; the public policy formulation process therefore requires ample time, comprehensive and reliable information, credible process, and disposition to engage contrary opinions. The one-day exercise proposed by the Prime Minister must not be simply for the Government to insist that it is right.

What form will this symposium take? If it is to last for one day then even if each presentation is limited to 20 minutes there could not be more than nine presentations - six in the morning and three in the afternoon with appropriate periods for discussion and a final plenary session.

Such symposia, if they are to address the issues seriously, would normally require at least a year's preparation, particularly if knowledgeable persons are to be invited from abroad. Such persons are usually busy with engagements and have to be booked well in advance. It is to be hoped that they will be scientists (including doctors) and lawyers of international repute and not just Alcoa propagandists. It is nevertheless important that those of us who have a serious interest in the issue express our intention to participate and to make presentations.

I participate in discussions of a Sustainable Development Network which has been working on the smelter issue in order to bring to the national discussion a comprehensive, balanced and unemotional analysis of the associated issues, and also to indicate the kind of analytical approach to such proposals that we would wish the Government to take. This group could make a valuable input into the public consultation.

In view of the widespread national and, I suspect, international interest in this issue, the proceedings must be made available as early as possible. This should be done in two ways. Firstly, the proceedings should be televised using TV channel 4 (which is owned by Government). Secondly, the organisers of the symposium must require all presenters to make their papers available in electronic form in advance, and compact discs must be made available to all participants on the day of the symposium. Thereafter such CDs of all presentations (to include the discussions) should be on sale to the public.

The Ministry of Health must make a statement on the health issue. The Ministry of Planning must make a presentation to indicate how the smelter proposals fit into social and economic plans for the south-west and the whole country. The sustainability of these developments must be indicated in relation to reserves of natural gas. That Ministry must also indicate what alternatives were considered for the south west peninsula and why they were rejected.

I have suggested the development of livestock (buffalypso - water buffalo); production of high quality honey for which this country has an international reputation (both activities having been already practiced in that part of the country); and other modern systems of agricultural development. Tourism could be based on a nature park and including other attributes of that beautiful part of Trinidad.

The Prime Minister has made a very significant statement at the post-Cabinet briefing that has so far gone without public comment. That was to the effect that it is Government's intention to import aluminium to commence down-stream manufacture even before the smelters are constructed! I have repeatedly asked the question in previous articles - why must we smelt aluminium in this small island with limited land space when we could import aluminium and go downstream?

To my great relief the Prime Minister has answered the question - this is feasible since it is Government's intention to do so. Japan has one of the largest industries in the world in the manufacture of aluminium products but has only an insignificant smelting capacity (6,000 tonnes) but in 2004 imported approximately two and a half million tonnes of aluminium. The Prime Minister has settled the aluminium smelting question. We must not smelt; instead, we must import aluminium. Since the downstream processes require significantly less energy our gas resources will last longer.

What of securing long term supplies of aluminium? We can promote the concept of Caricom integration by this country's Government investing in the development of aluminium smelting in Guyana - a vast country where there is no problem of space. We can also invest in the development of hydro-electric power in that country to provide a source of energy which will reduce their need for utilising foreign exchange for importation of petroleum products.

Are we likely to make such investments? Hardly, for we can gain political mileage from fine speeches on the importance of the Common Market and Economy without doing anything other than allowing in a few workers who in any case are needed in view of our shortage of skilled labour!

Wednesday, November 08, 2006


Dr Dave McIntosh

CEO – Environmental Management Authority (EMA)

St. Clair


Dear Dr. McIntosh,

While Dr. Ahmed Khan of Rapid Environmental Assessment Limited (REAL) - engaged by ALUTRINT to conduct an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) for their proposed aluminium smelter plant at Union Industrial Estate (UIE) - has made some effort to answer your basic concerns laid out in the ‘Deficiency Report’ prepared by EMA on the draft EIA, he still fails in his Supplemental Report to provide any actual performance data for air pollution control equipment. Why is it imprudent for him to obtain this from the Chinese smelter similar to the one proposed by ALUTRINT?

The results of the air pollution model used by REAL indicate that the EMA’s draft Air Pollution Standards for Fluoride (F) - among the most dangerous pollutants known - are exceeded at the edge of the smelter buffer zone. REAL has asked you to relax your Standards and at the same time propose to meet them if they ‘flip’ the plant around and use European air pollution control technology instead.

The question is can you be sure about the credibility of his air pollution model given that it has already marginally exceeded your Standard using hypothetical data?

Furthermore, what remain inadequately assessed in the Supplemental Report are the cumulative health impacts on surrounding communities from the whole estate when operational. We remain unsatisfied how this aspect of the EIA was handled. There are about 10,000 persons residing within 5km of UIE. The most predictable thing about climate and atmospheric conditions is that they are growing more unpredictable - this renders the air modeling even less credible. You need not be a sage to know that the age of heavy gas based industrialization in ‘developed nation states’ is closing for well documented reasons. But, based on ALUTRINT’s ‘philosophical’ reasoning for the reduction of the EMA’s proposed ‘Standards’ - based on an ‘economic benefits’ argument - this age should be dawning in T&T.

In all seriousness, since your Terms of Reference (TOR) for the EIA failed to require an ‘economic’ impact assessment of the smelter (despite this being mandatory according to the “Energy” clause of the current National Environmental Policy (NEP), how can ALUTRINT pose ‘economic’ logic to convince you to relax the environmental Standard you have yet to introduce? If the economic benefits argument is going to hold, then the question becomes: what about the economic costs? They remain sadly in the dark.

I believe that Dr. Khan is over playing the ‘techo-speak’ to give the impression that a hazardous industry of this notoriety for terminal cancer can be satisfactorily managed now in T&T - at the infancy stage of our regulatory instruments to ensure sustainable development. Who would have thought that at the last minute, with a flip of a plant and a trip over to Europe that the well being of Vessigny children would be assured against cancer from Fluoride poisoning over the next 20 years! Wonders never cease.

Despite these late antics by REAL, if you are not completely assured of the safety of these children, as we on the outside are not, then you are obliged to invoke the “Precautionary Principle” established by the Environmental Act 2000, as the grounds to deny ALUTRINT a Certificate of Environmental Clearance (CEC).

Moreover, if modern air pollution control technology is actually being successfully operated by the Chinese, it still confounds most of us out here why it is not possible for ALUTRINT to secure any actual data on their employee health surveillance records. ALUTRINT promised to translate these and make them available to you (see verbatim transcript of Public Consultation). Similarly, if the newly proposed “European” technology is really as good as they say, how has it actually performed and where? In other words, the only proof is in eating the pudding.

ALUTRINT has argued that you should relax your 24hour F standards because they cannot be consistently met. You need to be very cautious here. The human health information provided for F by REAL/ALUTRINT is not consistent with research on F from other sources. We strongly urge you to become familiar with a host of readily available peer reviewed research on the dangers of F at very low concentrations, and compare this to the data selectively introduced by REAL/ALUTRINT – before you capitulate to their argument for you to relax your intended Standard.

We are also wondering if, after reading their Supplemental Report, you feel that REAL is assessing ALUTRINT’s smelter in a truly professional unbiased manner. Did you ever get the feeling that REAL may be wishing with all their heart that they can deliver the CEC to ALUTRINT? Did you ever get the sense that REAL is equally moved by concern for the well-being and health security of surrounding residents?

I need not remind you that the environmental – social – economic justice movement in T&T is somewhat frustrated by what it sees as an intentionally flawed CEC process, and sees the EMA but a rubber stamp for ‘done’ political ‘deals’ which, as history teaches, are never based on “social” and “environmental” values but on the narrow economic interests of a privileged elite. A Doomsday recipe!

Why is it not possible to know through the CEC process whether a smelter run on hydropower in Guyana or Venezuela, with down stream aluminium industry in UIE, Trinidad, is not far better socially, environmentally and economically for all? Or perhaps equally valid, how can we be sure that we would all not be better off to replant UIE with high commercial value organic food crops for export?

Please be assured that we are deeply committed to helping the EMA to evolve the CEC process towards a sustainable T&T.

In your moment of decision whether to award a CEC to ALUTRINT- or not - I wish the light of Christ to be with you.


Cathal Healy-Singh

Environmental Engineer