G21 Contributions Page 1

Community vs State/Private Sector Partnership:
Environment-Development Conflict in Toco, Trinidad

Amar Wahab

Trinidad and Tobago is the most southerly Caribbean nation. It possesses a population of 1.3 million, an area of over 5000 square miles and is a petroleum-based economy. The country is reported to be the fifteenth most bio-diverse nation on the planet for diversity of mammalian species. Within the past decade the country has witnessed alarming atrocities to its environment such as the slaughter of Leatherback turtles, the Amazon parrot, the West Indian Manatee, and other endemic species, as well as the alteration and obliteration of important habitats.

In addition, identified as a country of medium poverty (World Bank) and ranking at number forty in the world's Human Development Index (United Nations), there has also been a snowballing appetite for development without consideration of the ecological and social costs incurred. Recently, the destruction of the largest freshwater wetland on the island, the Nariva Swamp, by profiteering civil pirates (i.e. private entrepreneurs) not only raped the wetland systems of its balance, but also destroyed the survival economies of over 5000 people living in fringe communities. The governments of the day were not only inactive, but uncommitted to the cause of the ecological and survival economies of the citizenry.

One would have thought, from the Nariva saga, which could also be heading for a sequel, that the lessons which seem to be apparent in environmental conflicts throughout our history, would have informed more environmentally and socially responsible approaches toward national environmental governance. Yet, three years after the rape and slaughter of the Nariva Swamp and the total disrespect for communitiesí relationship with the environment, the threat of development has reared its ugly head in a way that can cripple a nation reputed to possess the oldest nature reserve in the western hemisphere.

There is a current mounting conflict between state/private development efforts and the interests of community empowerment and environmental protection in the Toco region on the north-east coast of Trinidad. The Toco region comprises many villages along a stretch of over fifty miles of coastline, with the main survival activities for the over 5000 people being farming, fishing, small scale community entrepreneurship and other community-based jobs. Because the area is quite remote from the other centres of development in the country, it is regarded as one of the few remaining places in the Caribbean that has been able to preserve traditional and sustainable environmental cultures. The many extremely scenic bays and beaches and abounding reefs of Toco has made it a prime area for local vacationers and the communities have thrived on low impact local tourism for many years. In addition, it is one of the few places in the world where the gigantic Leatherback turtles nest from May to August every year. Turtle watching has become a main feature in the communitiesí drive to sustain themselves and their environment through sustainable eco-tourism. I even remember myself as a child, being in Toco every Easter holiday and enjoying the natural richness of the area and the culture of the people. Rituals such as small village chats and walks, fresh mud-oven baked breads, and swimming in the pristine bays are what I regard of some the priceless attributes of the Toconian experience.

But the human-environment balance that currently exists in Toco currently hangs in the jaws of confusion and threat. The government of Trinidad and Tobago along with private interests has developed a plan, without the participation of any community representatives or environmental non-governmental bodies to transform the pristine community-environment system that is Toco, into a huge port. Fifty percent of the project's stakeholdership (defined in terms of financial contribution) comprises a local private engineering firm, Lee Young and Partners, and Worldwide Traders International which is registered in the Netherlands Antilles. The port development is estimated to be a joint US$71 million venture.

Even though villagers have always been in support of a small ferry between Toco and nearby, Tobago, Toco residents were extremely surprised and disgusted to learn that the development plans include bunkering and refuelling facilities for passing oil tankers and other international shipping, oil industry servicing capabilitiues, cruise ship berths with facilities, a marina for pleasure craft, a fishing fleet of ten long-line trawlers, berths for 40 pirogues, facilities for the treatment and storage of fish, hotels, a national security outpost, customs and police facilities, a seaquarium and "improved" roads. Every single aspect of this plan has both ecological and social issues that the people of Toco feel are adverse to their interests and future. Yet, the government, with its local and regional cohorts, in true wild west style continues to expedite the commencement of the port development, with out mind or matter of the impacts. Imagine, an environmental impact assessment commissioned by the government is actually being conducted by one of the partners in the development deal! How can a party with a vested interest in the development be incharge of charting its evaluation in the midst of the spectrum of diversity concerning the intervention? And the government continues to take no actions to ensure that a socially and politically just assessment is conducted along lines of procedural justice! For readers in the Economic North, the Wild West is still very much alive in the Economic South/Third World! We are not only the victims of decisions outside our world but we ourselves create that self-victimization!

Residents are extremely angry and confused about the development plans, especially since they were never included in the decision-making process. In addition, there is a real possibility that homes will have to be relocated, livelihoods dispossessed and disempowered. In addition, the abounding reefs and bays which support the local leisure industry and the small-scale community fishing industry, when dredged for cruise ships and oil tankers, will become only memories.

Some of the villagersí concerns are echoed in the following questions: Would people have to be relocated and how will development affect their culture and livelihoods? Would the movement of large water craft cause the destruction of the reefs, disturbing the local fishery and the natural scenic values of the area? Would the Toco people really benefit from employment in cruise tourism and massive hotels, especially since they do not have the skills employers will need to service these industries? Could the advent of cruise ships and oil tankers promote a vigorous "fun, sand and sex" industry that can destroy the community youth and obliterate the existing sense of community? What sort of waste management plan is in place for incoming water craft, particularly when one reflects on the spate of problems of yachting communities in the Eastern Caribbean? What will be the social, economic and ecological impact of an oil spill in the area? What will trawling do to the sustainability of the community fishery? Who will really benefit ń a community that has had absolutely no part in the planning OR state/private interests that are prepared to invest US$71 million for the sake of profit?

Despite the hard work of environmental NGOs there has emerged an indifference of the State to civil exclusion and non-participation in decision concerning the Toco Port and Ferry Development project. A group of community members called Stakeholders Against the Destruction of Toco has also come together to advocate community interests and criticism against the development project, but there is a need for even great support from the local, regional and international spheres. The community-based activist group has identified the following alternative perspectives for development:

- the rehabilitation of roads between communities in the Toco region with proper agricultural access roads will by themselves begin the transformation and stimulation of economic activity in the entire region.

- A revitalization of the agriculture and fishing sectors together with micro-industrial enterprises based on the resources of the region is feasible.

- We have the power to develop, implement and sustain a viable ecotourism industry in our community and the north-east coast of Trinidad.

- A fraction of the money wasted in these grandiose schemes, irrelevant of the harmonious development of communities they will affect, can be better invested in soft loans and grants to facilitate the above initiatives.

The advent of such a mammoth development project, not to mention partisan decision-making process can only spell destruction of the cultural and environmental values of the Toco region, in the name of private profiteering.

I am appealing to the international community to support us, the citizens of Trinidad and Tobago, by sending letters of support against the wide scale Toco Port and Ferry Development project. You can write to: The Environment Management Authority, Mutual Life Building, Queens Park West, Port-of-Spain, Trinidad and Tobago OR to The Prime Minister's Office, White Hall, Queens Park West, Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago.

You can also e-mail your comments and letters of support via: amarwahab@hotmail.com from where your messages will be sent to the relevant authorities, NGOs and the communities.

Amar Wahab, Independent Consultant on Environment and Development in the Caribbean.

Prospects of the Peace

Omido Vafa

Every day, newscasts bring further evidence of humankind's pulling away from the bipolar world of the Cold War. The path forward is unclear, chaos as it is with regional and ethnic conflict, poverty gaps, and huge migrations of peoples. Yet the advance toward globalization, led by the spectacular progress of technologies, is unmistakable.

It is now urgent to develop a vision of the world as a community. The old nationalisms are incapable of producing true human security in a world now interdependent in every major aspect of life. A new form of management of the planet, based first of all on cooperation, is essential. Such cooperation can open the way to discovery of common values of East and West, North and South in the joint search for an enduring peace.

The expression of a new global ethnic of sharing and stewardship might seem, to some, overly ambitious in a world still torn by the effects of long historic of greed and dominance. Yet agreement on common values for common survival is the most pressing challenge facing the international community. My objective in this article is to express my vision of the world community in terms related to the central political issues of our time. Moreover, how to find safe path into the twenty-first century.

What is truly unthinkable in today's context is not nuclear war, but nuclear disarmament. Almost no one believes it is a genuine option. Even among those who advocate disarmament, very few can sketch a believable scenario culminating in the effective abolition of nuclear weapons. Indeed, a great many people seem to think the abolition of nuclear weapons is not just politically improbable, but technologically impossible.

Today slavery is unacceptable as a social institution, yet little more than a century ago this issue tore the United States apart in a civil war. And a century before that the desirability of its abolition was an opinion held by a very few "eccentric" individuals. Similarly, other social institutions such as human sacrifice and child labor have become unacceptable.

A less obvious truth is that war, the greatest evil of our time, is obsolete if not yet extinct and must be abolished. We are all used to the unfortunate truisms that history is made up of wars interspersed by peace, that we are living today in the formats of the Third World War, that war is peace and peace is war, and so on. But will we find the security of which St.Augustine and Immanuel Kant spoke, "a well disposed order of all things?" The question is how? The answer isn't that simple, however it must be a worldwide movement to abolish war in the next century; and the complete rejection of war, not just nuclear war, as an acceptable social institution. To provide the best prospect for the peace the abolition of war must be recognized as the number one moral and ethical issue of our time. Hiram Maxim, the inventor of the machine gun, thought he had invented a weapon to end war, the ultimate deterrent: "Only a general who was a barbarian would send his men to certain death against the concentrated power of my new gun." But send they did. Similarly the airplane was originally seen as the ultimate deterrent to war. According to Orville Wright, "when my brother and I built and flew the first man-carrying machine, we thought we were introducing into the world an invention that would make further wars practically impossible." He was wrong too.

History shows the folly in hoping that each new, more destructive weapon will end war, yet we pretend World War III will not happen. If we persist in our methods of thinking, it is not just a possibility, it is a mathematically certainty. To survive we must wake up. We can no longer afford to drift. We must shift from an old mode of thinking, which justifies war as necessary for survival, to a new mode of thinking which recognizes war as the ultimate threat to out survival. The choice between these two modes of thinking is a choice between life and death. Albert Einstein said that the atom has changed everything except our way of thinking.

We must change the way we think of war. It's possible. Those who said slavery would never be abolished advanced the same old arguments against change. Human institutions can be changed if enough people believe such change is important. We will never find the courage or the wisdom to save unless we fire a strong flame of hope in our own hearts and in the hearts of men and women throughout the world. Idealism may be vital oxygen needed to feed this flame but-as events have repeatedly shown-idealism alone is not enough. More practical considerations must furnish the fuel to make it flame.

First millennium was a millennium of God and his revelation through his messengers Moses, Christ, and Mohammed. Second millennium has been considered human domination over nature as we tried to take over the nature by science and technology and direct them to increase market and materialism. Satish Kumar an editor of the influential magazine on ecological and spiritual values, Resurgence mentioned in one of his talk at the Youth Symposium on November 28th 1999 (Kyoto), "Let this millennium be the time of nature, environment, and non-violence". Hamed Abdel-Samad, the Egyptian delegate at the symposium stated that today we seem to have put a great deal of our power into the hands of technology and machines. These machines are now capable of developing their own mechanisms, so that they can be independent from our control. Vanish the nature is the key to hold on to the circle of the economy moving. Rossitza Ivanova from Bulgaria vision the problem of humanity as willingness to engage in actions that are suggested in our own proclamations. People have given up activism as a successful mode. She believes that activism has nothing to do with final outcomes, but is vital for its essence, for the thoughts it inspires, for the atmosphere it creates.

The final and the most important message is to have a vision and desire toward a unified society that we can all work together through respect and understanding. The need of the hour is vigilance to see the reality of life and action in order that we not be branded as the Ĺefailed generationĹf by our children and grandchildren. A quote from an ancient Buddhist literature. "For yesterday is but a dream, and tomorrow is only a vision; But today well lived makes every yesterday a dream of happiness, and every tomorrow a vision of hope".

Omido Vafa
Research Fellow to UNHCHR Kyoto University Research School of International Law

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