A question of planning
Thursday, July 26 2012
WHILE the adverse impact of the recently introduced traffic plan for West Port-of-Spain on the revenues of several business places along Tragarete Road and the Western Main Road may be eased by adjustments to or cancellation of the plan, the destruction of countless leatherback turtle eggs and hatchlings at Grande Riviere may have a long- term negative effect on the country’s efforts to establish itself as an eco-tourism major.
For although the relevant authorities have stressed a three-month trial period for the traffic plan, Tourism Ministers and departments have been seeking for decades to establish this country, tourism wise, as one of the relatively few nesting and hatching places in the world of the endangered leatherback turtle. What should be clearly understood is that despite efforts of successive governments over the years to attract an increasing number of eco tourists, they represent only a small percentage of tourists, who come here, whether as stopover or in transit visitors.
Trinidad and Tobago’s (TT) eco tourism attractions have centred around the nesting and hatching of the leatherback turtle, on Trinidad North and East coasts, between March and August; the Asa Wright Nature Centre and the Pointe-a-Pierre Wild Fowl Trust, inter alia. What was ironic about the destruction of literally thousands of turtleeggs and hatchlings by the Ministry of the Environment, when it conducted excavation works at Grande Riviere, was that the leatherback turtle is officially protected.
Despite this, the Environment Ministry and the Environmental Management Authority have sought to justify thesenseless destruction of the leatherback turtle eggs and hatchlings. Why was the work not done prior to March, when indications are it could have been. Regrettably, no one has been held accountable. But the terrible gaffe having been committed, what steps, if any, are inplace to prevent s recurrence?
Meanwhile, the Minister of Tourism should take immediate steps to correct the unfortunate image which has been projected by this inexcusable act. As we pointed out earlier, only a fraction of the tourists visiting here are eco tourists. Admittedly, they come here not only because of the leatherback turtle and the equally endangered West Indian manatee, but to engage in bird watching, including going on boat tours of the Caroni Swamp to view the Scarlet Ibis.
The level of foreign visitors to TT has been hard hit by the continuing global economic downturn, which has resulted in fewer visitors calling.
While the number of tourists, who may opt to arrange to go to another place where the leatherback turtles lay eggs may be few, this will still represent a fall off in potential revenue and a blow to the hotel industry and internal transport as well.
Meanwhile, on the issue of the traffic plan, businessmen have protested a fall off in patronage, not along principal thoroughfares such as Tragarete Road and the Western Main Road, but along other roads or portions of these roads which have been converted into one-way streets. They have argued that along the main roadways, persons who prior to the introduction of the traffic plan would have provided patronage, are all too often finding it difficult to “cross the road” to shop as a result of the increase in vehicular traffic, now one-way. This has meant a loss in sales with the patronage shifting to other areas. If this continues, then the reduction in business opportunities could lead not only to a need for fewer sales clerks and other employees, but in extreme cases, to some businesses being relocated.
This will mean less money being turned around within the economy of west Port-of-Spain. For while demand is still there, the level of patronage shift will determine the profitability, or lack thereof, of businesses negatively affected by the plan. A possible effect may be a shift by consumers to malls.
Was a proper study done with a view to determining the effect of the adjusting of the routes on businesses in St James and Woodbrook? Did the planners consider the interests of businesses and, therefore, the economy of west Port-of-Spain in the drawing up of their proposals? What were their references or were they working by “vaps”?