THE EDITOR: I note with a great degree of consternation and dismay that the Environmental Management Agency (EMA) has granted a Certificate of Clearance (CEC) to the Housing Development Agency for the “establishment of a 504-unit multi-family residential development” on what is known as the St Augustine Nurseries.
This despite the recent destruction of homes built on agricultural lands in Greenvale and Oropune Gardens and public outrage voiced in the media as well as at the consultations held. In fact, according to the EMA’s records, 85 per cent of attendees, at the last of its three consultations, were against the change of use of the land.
The St Augustine Nurseries were set up in 1930 with a mandate “to produce high-quality planting material to the farming community and general public, thereby contributing to food security and to expand and conserve germplasm collections of key strategic crops of agricultural importance in live genebanks and/or cold storage so as to ensure sustainability of the agricultural sector for the benefit of both the present and future generations.”
The “farm” currently maintains extensive germplasm and budwood for breadfruit, avocadoes, guava, oranges, sapodilla, mango, plum, pommecethere, pommerac, peewah, caimate, cherry, chenet and chataigne.
Shockingly, the EMA has granted the CEC without the need for an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA).
An EIA is the process of assessing the likely environmental impacts of a proposal and identifying options to minimise damage. The main purpose of the EIA is to inform decision makers of the likely impacts of the proposal, before a decision is made and with a project of this magnitude should be a precondition prior to implementation.
Clearly, the EMA has not considered the already horrendous traffic situation on Farm Road and the Southern Main Road, nor the fact that there are several WASA wells on the “farm” that currently supply water to large parts of St Joseph.
What about the aquifers that act as reservoirs for ground water and consequently militate against flooding? What about a drainage assessment and additional sewage? Which schools, primary and secondary, health centres etc in Curepe/St Augustine will accommodate the new influx of residents?
Why the hurry to build this development while there are over 12,000 empty, abandoned and incomplete houses at various stages of disrepair in housing estates across the country?
This is nothing more than political expediency, a naked plan to “pad” the St Joseph constituency and represents unplanned development at its worst. It paves the way for the continued “planned” destruction of the agricultural sector and for future mayhem as was witnessed recently in Greenvale, Oropune, St Helena and Kelly Village, where politicians walk away, the blame game commences and citizens are the ones left to pick up the pieces of their shattered lives.
I put the Government on notice that this may just be the tipping point that decent, civic-minded citizens have been waiting for.
VASANT V BHARATH