Environmentalists tell public: Pursue concerns in court

EU Ambassador to TT Peter Cavendish - Photo by Jeff K. Mayers
EU Ambassador to TT Peter Cavendish - Photo by Jeff K. Mayers

PEOPLE can only get justice for environmental matters if it is pursued in the court, said Sunil Sookraj, the chairman of the Environmental Commission of TT, at the launch of the EnviroRightsTT inception workshop at the Belmont Community Centre on March 21.

Representatives from the Caribbean Natural Resources Institute (CANARI), Environment Tobago, the European delegation to TT and the Ministry of Planning all gathered in Belmont to discuss the implementation of the new initiative. EnviroRightsTT hopes to build civil-society capacity to access information, participate in policy-making and access justice in environmental matters in TT.

The initiative is a partnership between CANARI, Environment Tobago, the Ecuadorian Institute and international partners the Parliamentarians for Global Action and the Environmental Law Alliance Worldwide.

“The Environmental Commission is a superior court of record. It is a specialised environmental court and it is a court that is available to the citizens of TT. People should seek to access these courts,” Sookraj said.

He added that civil society has always been an important sector in TT and would need to get involved in the effort to combat climate change.

“I recognise that for many the environment may not have always been a priority, but we are all experiencing the damage to the environment and changes to the world’s climate. We all recognise that TT is a small island developing state which makes us very susceptible and vulnerable to the effects of climate change.

“With the changes that have been occurring, which have been happening at a rapid rate, it is necessary for us to adapt strategies as well while we change the way we interact with our environment.”

Nicole Leotaud, executive director of CANARI, noting that a sustainable environment was recognised as a human right by the UN General Assembly, called for the TT government to include it as a constitutional right.

“Protecting this right requires effective environmental governance, particularly to ensure transparency participation that is meaningful in decision-making and accountability. This requires that we protect people's access to information, the right to participate in decision-making and the right to access justice if they feel they have been wronged in an environmental matter.”

Peter Cavendish, ambassador to the European delegation to TT, said decisions on environmental matters need to be based on facts.

“We know the origin of these problems. We need facts. We are leaving a mountain of debt and a mountain of pollution for our children. The least we could do is be intellectually honest, get the facts and start the process of saving the planet,” he said.


"Environmentalists tell public: Pursue concerns in court"

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