By Andy Johnson

Story Created: Feb 5, 2011 at 6:42 PM ECT

Story Updated: Feb 5, 2011 at 6:42 PM ECT

IN a report of the Social Impact Assessment Programme on the Alutrint smelter project in La Brea there is a series of statements about losses to the residents.

This document was prepared by a company called Foster Solutions for Sustainable Ecosystem Development Ltd.

One reference is made to a Mr Ramnarine, who asked at a meeting in January 2006, about possible loss of beaches. A certain Dr Khan explained that access to the Vessigny Beach would be cut off and that the extension of the Brighton Port would most likely result in the loss of the other nearby beach. Dr Khan stated that it was the National Energy Corporation’s intention to upgrade the Vessigny Dam in order to compensate for these losses.

Another exchange listed Mr Ramnarine as saying that Trinidad is a beach-bathing country and that the Government taking away beaches from the people could cause them to become bitter. Dr Khan stated that this had already taken place.

It is being alleged that information such as this was never communicated to the people concerned, whether they lived in the communities constituting what has been dubbed the “buffer zone” in the area immediately bordering the smelter site, or in the villages further away.

Row Services Ltd is a company which wrote to some residents of the Square Deal community saying it had been retained by the NEC to rrelocate them.

The letter is dated December 6, 2008. It told the residents that there was an offer on the table for them to consider for the proposed relocation. It said the residents had five days in which to consider the offer, that the NEC could change its mind about the offer for any reason and further that whether they decided to accept the offer or not, the residents were prohibited from discussing it with any third party, individual, company or organisation.

Two weeks later, Frederick Cornwall, President of the Square Deal Development Committee, replied to the Row letter, taking strong offence at its contents and what the residents saw as confusion, inconsistency and duplicity the proposed arrangements for the relocation.

“We do not agree that relocation should take place unless a relocation plan is presented to the community which includes all of the terms and conditions given and negotiations are carried out,” the response from Mr Cornwall said. It had been drawn up with the assistance of some of the professionals working with these residents.


This series of correspondence has been taking place contrary to what these residents say was their understanding of the conditions laid down in the Certificate of Environmnetal Clearance, a critical component of which is that the NEC was expected to “pursue resident relocation and resettlement utilising best industry practices” such as recommended by a World Bank Operational Policy on Involuntary Resettlement.

Such was the culture of mistrust, distrust, fear and frustration which had been building up among the residents and around the Alutrint project as the company was pressing ahead with the work to begin the plant.

Going back to 2005, from meetings involving the NEC and officials from agencies as the Institute of Marine Affairs and the Fisheries Division of the Ministry of Agriculture, disclosures were made about environmental losses which would have resulted from this project. There is the record of at least one meeting with a company known as Rapid Environmental Assessment Ltd (REAL), consultants for the NEC on this project, and involving the Forestry Division.


In one case it was declared that access to the Vessigny Beach would have to be restricted for security reasons. This beach, it was decided, would suffer the same fate of the Clifton Hill beach following the construction of the Atlantic LNG plant in Pt Fortin. It was decided that the NEC intended to develop a recreational site to compensate for the loss or destruction to the beach at Vessigny.

There is more. A Ms Forte is listed as telling REAL’s Dr Khan she did not see any benefits to the fisheries by the development of the Union Industrial Estate, where the Alutrint plant is being located. Ms Forte was representing the Fisheries Division at that meeting in August, 2005.

“Her response was that there are major social impacts such as the loss of the beach, landing sites and fishing access … she was unable to state any expected benefits at this point in time. She suggested, however, that the stakeholders affected be compensated for their losses.”

This is what lies at the heart of the opposition to the project. They were stunned to begin hearing, late in the day, about disclosures contained in a medical monitoring plan, a version of which the company had nevertheless prepared, but which contained frightening disclosures of potential health hazards. The company’s version is said to have been sanitised.

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