Steel Mill to Destroy Environment and Livelihood of Hundreds

What is affected
Land Social/public
Type of violation Dispossession/confiscation
Date 02 March 2009
Region LAC [ Latin America/Caribbean ]
Country Trinidad and Tobago
Location Claxton Bay on the west coast of Trinidad and Tobago

Affected persons

Total 750
Men 0
Women 0
Children 0
Proposed solution

Duty holder(s) /responsible party(ies)

Private party
Brief narrative A spot surrounded by residential areas in Claxton Bay on the west coast of Trinidad and Tobago is the destination for a steel mill, which is planned to be built in the near future. In order to provide the necessary transport infrastructure, a large-scale port will also have to be built. The port threatens to inevitably destroy the sensitive natural environment, which feeds 150 fishermen and their families. In addition, the mill will likely subject thousands of people to heavy pollution, and have an adverse impact on crop yields.

After negotiations between private actors and the Government of Trinidad and Tobago (GORTT), a project has been planned to construct an industrial port to supply an intended steel plant with a transport infrastructure. The Environmental Management Authority (EMA), however, has halted the building preparations due to concerns regarding the impact of the construction and functioning of the port on the environment. Even after the NEC (National Energy Corporation), which has contracted a private company to build the port, has officially downscaled the project, our fear is that the size of the project could increase again after it is approved.

Near the project site, sea grass beds facilitate the abundance of water life in Claxton Bay. The mullet, the most common fish, dwells there plentifully along with cravalla, sardines, salmon, crabs and lobster. Out of these resources, the local fishermen earn an income for themselves and their families. Together with the busy cargo traffic, the constant dredging of the seabed to maintain the functionality of the seaport threatens to annihilate any marine life at the mud banks and the sea grass beds. An upgraded port requires 600 acres of offshore mud banks to be removed, These mud banks guarantee the survival of shrimps, algae, snails, larvae, plankton and mullets. With the increasing pollution, the fishing grounds will most likely deteriorate and most fishermen and adjacent industries will have to give up their businesses.

Furthermore, mangroves, which provide a protected habitat for fish, crabs, mollusks and many other species, shall be cleared out to make way for the port. The ecosystem is a constant source of food and a bulwark against storms and floods

In the 2007 UN Development Report, Trinidad and Tobago has been classified as a country of high development. Still, the unemployment rate is 8 % and the earnings from major export products like gas and ammonium are declining. The Government of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago (GORTT) has been prompted to test new strategies to attract investors. Among fishermen and other parts of the population, resistance against the decision of their government to foster heavy industry ventures in Claxton Bay is growing.

By emitting 900 000 tons of CO² annually, once constructed, the steel plant will contribute to global warming and the steel dust emitted will probably spread across a 10-mile perimeter. Hence the health of at least 3,000 people who live in nearby settlements will be adversely affected.

FIAN Mandate

FIAN International advocates the human right to food, which is anchored in Art. 11 of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR). Trinidad and Tobago is a state party to the ICESCR. Consequently, it is duty-bound to respect, protect, and fulfill the right to food of all citizens. It has to protect the means of its citizens to feed themselves, to refrain from policies which ignore their right to food and to prevent all third parties from doing so. The state and its organs have to respect the fishing grounds and halt ambitions to build the steel mill and the port unless there is full compensation as agreed upon by the fisherfolk.

Call for action

States have to guarantee that productive resources like offshore fishing grounds, mangroves, and land can be used by the fisherfolk and coastal communities depending on them for their livelihoods. Please se
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