WORKS and Transport Minister Rohan Sinanan said the construction of the Toco port would not significantly impact coral reefs on the north east coast.
He was responding to a question in the Senate Wednesday from Opposition Senator Wade mark on measures to protect the Grande L'Anse coral reef in light of reports that the construction of the proposed Toco Port would negatively affect it.
Sinanan said several articles and reports recently published in the media were based on an article published in April 2019 which highlighted two reef sites along the north east coast line of Trinidad, namely Sally Bay and Grande L'Anse reef. He said the Grande L'Anse reef was the smallest of the reefs along that coast.
He said the National Infrastructure Development Company Ltd (Nidco) had procured the services of ERM to undertake the environmental impact assessment (EIA) for the Toco port facilities. He said after the article was published Nidco requested that ERM review the publication and ERM concluded that the data suggested the reef "is not as high(ly) diverse as the Sally Bay reef and the construction of the port will not lead to a decrease in the species diversity in north east Trinidad."
He said, as part of the EIA, ERM is conducting a marine biology base-line study which includes manual dives and drop camera surveys within the project area. He reported the survey had identified 37 benthic invertebrate species (organisms that live on the bottom of a water body or sediment), none of which were endangered or vulnerable.
He said it was also noteworthy that the current in the area flowed in a westerly direction and the activities of the port "will not have any significant impact on the Sally Bay coral reef or any other reef east of Grand L'Anse reef."
Sinanan said despite establishing there were no critical or endangered coral species within the project area, mitigation measures would be implemented to protect the surrounding environment.
Mark asked which state agency recommended the mitigation measures and Sinanan replied that the project must get approval from the Environmental Management Authority (EMA) and there must be consultation with stakeholders.
Opposition Senator Saddam Hosein asked if a certificate of environmental clearance (CEC) had been granted for the project but Sinanan said the EIA was an ongoing exercise and once all the information was sent then the CEC would be approved.
Hosein asked if the operation of the port would damage the reef and Sinanan said the EIA would take into account both the construction and operation of the port.