A week after Guardian Media exclusively highlighted the destruction of the sprawling trees near the Chatham Forest Reserve, the Environmental Management Authority has expressed concerns about the destruction of virgin forests in the southwestern peninsula.
But despite this concern, the suspected land grabber continued to chop down trees, clean down forest shrubs and mangroves, as well as erect an illegal house on the forest edge.
In a statement issued yesterday, the EMA said it was investigating reports of illegal land occupation and land clearing in the Chatham Forest.
“The EMA is very concerned about recent reports of illegal land occupation (Land Grabbing) in South Trinidad, in particular the Cedros area, where the virgin forest is being cleared. These activities have the potential to negatively impact T&T’s biodiversity and may increase the incidence of flooding with devastating results,” the authority said in the release.
It noted that “the EMA’s investigations continue in tandem with the Forestry Division.”
However, councillor for Cedros Shankar Teelucksingh expressed shock that no stop notice was issued by the Commissioner of State Lands to prevent further destruction of the forest reserve. He said the office as well as the Minister of Agriculture Clarence Rambharat has been silent on the illegal land occupation.
Teelucksingh said while the land grabbing continues, legitimate farmers from Food Crop Road, Chatham, have been served notice to quit state land occupation even though they have been farming there for over 30 years.
“It is alarming that this man can go into the forest and start to chop it down and he continues to wire fence the front, back and side and no state agency has come forward to look at this, even though it was highlighted a week ago. Yet the ministry is serving notices to two farmers who have been farming the land at Food Crop Road for more than 30 years,” Teelucksingh said.
He called on the ministry to take action to save the forests, noting that there were four places in the peninsula where land grabbing was continuing unabated.
Minister Rambharat said the matter is being investigated. Commissioner of State Lands Bhanmatie Seecharan did not respond to Whatsapp messages left for her.