A High Court judge has ordered a temporary halt to work on the Churchill Roosevelt Highway extension to Manzanilla.
The Ministry of Works and its contractor for Phase 1 of the project, KallCo, will only be allowed to continue with surveys, remove already felled trees and construct a temporary office at the site.
Justice Kevin Ramcharan said his concern was reducing any irreparable harm to the environment.
His order for the work stoppage is until Monday, when he will consider an emergency injunction application sought by environmental lobbyist Fishermen and Friends of the Sea (FFOS).
Ramcharan made it clear that his order, which he granted yesterday at an emergency hearing at the Hall of Justice in Port of Spain, was in no way an indication of how he felt on the merits of FFOS’ arguments. He said his order was to “protect the subject matter.”
As part of his order, Ramcharan has not permitted the felling of new trees or the creation of an access road. His order came after the lead attorney for the ministry, Ian Benjamin, said his client could not suspend work on the site until Monday, while attorney Devesh Maharaj, who represents KallCo, said his client had contractual obligations to fulfil. He also said there were cost and mobilisation consequences if work were to stop.
FFOS’ lead attorney, Anand Ramlogan, SC, argued that the preparatory work near the Aripo Savannas, which began on January 8, had already breached the buffer zone of the savannas.
He also cautioned about the effect the presence of heavy machinery had on flora and fauna at the Aripo Savannas which are an environmentally sensitive area (ESA).
The group has also challenged the decision by the Environmental Management Authority (EMA) to issue a certificate of environmental clearance (CEC) to the Ministry of Works for a 5,000-metre highway from the Cumuto Main Road to Guaico Trace in Sangre Grande.
In its lawsuit, FFOS contends the CEC is “unreasonable, illegal, procedurally improper, irrational, null and void and of no effect.”
The EMA is represented by Deborah Peake, SC, who objected to the filing of the injunction by the FFOS.