Plans for a highway that is destroying the Aripo Savannas --Trinidad and Tobago's largest remaining savanna ecosystem--have been temporarily halted!
The Aripo Savannas in north central Trinidad is home to rare and threatened species, including red-bellied macaws and parrots that feed in the palms, the carnivorous sundew plant (Drosera capillaris), and ocelots.
Last month, construction began on the highway despite the Aripo Savannas being declared an Environmentally Sensitive Area.
ELAW partners at Fishermen and Friends of the Sea (FFOS) are challenging plans for a 5 km section of the highway, from Cumuto to Sangre Grande. In early February, Judge Rajkumar on the Court of Appeal blocked new construction on the proposed highway until a final review of the project's Certificate of Environmental Clearance is heard. The hearing is expected in March.
ELAW's science team is working closely with FFOS to protect this critical ecosystem. In August, ELAW Staff Scientist Dr. Heidi Weiskel traveled to Trinidad and Tobago to do a field survey of the area. She compared what she saw on the ground with what was in the Environmental Impact Assessment and the subsequent official approval documents, then provided an expert report addressing the environmental impacts of the proposed highway.
"The Aripo Savannas is a beautiful, unusual ecosystem that is protected under Trinidadian law," says Heidi. "Some of the impacts I predicted in the Expert Report have already come to pass with the initial bulldozing and earthworks. I hope that stopping the highway before more damage is done will enable the case to be properly assessed in court and the ecosystem protected."
For the latest video from FFOS on threats to the Aripo Savannas click here.
Congratulations Fishermen and Friends of the Sea!