?As of now there has been no scientific assessment, even if preliminary, of the sunken earth at Todd's Road in Caparo, so there is a measure of mystery about this phenomenon, even if there are educated guesses about why the land slipped.
In the circumstances, therefore, there should be put in place severe restrictions of movement of people in and around the site as it seems to have become a natural curiosity for people both from the area and even those who travel long distances to see this phenomenon. The point is that in the absence of a thorough understanding of what caused it and the possibility of it slipping even further, there should be caution. But having made the point, the observable evidence is that the slide is the result of years, perhaps decades, of unregulated sand mining in the area. During the tenure of the last government, illegal quarrying took hold in several areas. It came to be that both long-standing quarry operators and those who seemed to have sprung up overnight to capture a claim, grabbed State lands "free-sheet" and went about the business of quarrying. To exacerbate the situation, the state removed from the monitoring of the Environmental Management Authority the responsibility to oversee quarrying operations through the issuing of a Certificate of Environmental Clearance for quarrying on parcels of land less than 150 acres.
The absolute disaster is that most local quarries fall under the 150-acre limit and so their operators are not required to approach the EMA for a CEC to operate. The logic of that legislation befuddles because this is a small country where unregulated quarrying in one part of the country can have a disastrous impact on another part of the country. Certainly, this is a situation which needs to be immediately reversed to allow the EMA to regain supervision of all quarrying operations, without regard to the size of the acreage being mined. Assuredly, there must be a criminalization of illegal quarrying operations complete with heavy fines and custodial sentences for those who violate the law. These are vital and irreplaceable resources and all instances of illegal quarrying must attract the severest penalties allowable. For too long, the quarrying of sand, rock and other forms of aggregate has taken on all of the gangster-like characteristics of the Wild, Wild West–new lands that are captured and policed by criminals without regard to mundane issues like the rule of law and respect for authority. This must stop.
There is a new sherrif in town and she must exert her authority over this lawlessness. Passing legislation is necessary but not sufficient. Daily all kinds of laws are wantonly trampled upon with the perpetrators fully aware that the chances of them being caught and prosecuted are slim. The updating and passage of legislation on the environment, including land mining, must become operational with resources committed to policing the laws. And here we come to what must be a serious oversight on the part of the new Prime Minister in choosing her Cabinet without having a ministry dedicated to preserving and enhancing the environment. This is surprising given the fact that the People's Partnership was able to garner much of the environmental vote because of its stated opposition to the establishment of a smelter. What makes the oversight more regrettable is the number of environmentally sensitive issues now at stake. The proposed establishment of a smelter, the rapid rail project slated to run through hundreds of acres of land and the development of land for food production purposes are but a few. Prime Minister Persad-Bissessar should immediately redress the Cabinet oversight or run the risk of exposing the environment to further abuse.