Small Islands Voice Global Forum
Beaches for all: let the people decide
Emile Louis from Tobago in the Caribbean writes about the loss of public access and use at the famous Pigeon Point beach and the need for action.
Under the existing laws of Trinidad and Tobago, the beach, the sea, the jetty and the lagoon at Pigeon Point are free public spaces.
A newcomer, who represents a powerful group of companies in Trinidad and Tobago, has recently acquired Pigeon Point Estate. As a result, Pigeon Point has become a place where the general public, as well as visitors from elsewhere, feel unwelcome. This is an unacceptable state of affairs that cannot be allowed to continue unchallenged.
Residents and friends from abroad know Tobago as a place for peaceful sharing and harmonious co-existence. In order to restore that ambience and the sharing of public space at Pigeon Point, the following measures need to be undertaken:
1. Permit the traditional users - fisherfolk, reef-boat operators, handicraft vendors and others – to continue their traditional activities at the Pigeon Point coast.
2. Maintain free access and use of the Pigeon Point jetty.
3. Establish an alternative public road access to the beach.
4. Until such a time as the alternative access is in place, terminate the demeaning permit requirement for fisherfolk, who have to traverse the only existing private road through the estate in order to get to their boats and storage facilities. Surely a national identity card, driver’s permit, fisherman identity card or passport should suffice as proof of identity while using the private road.
5. Stop the destruction of mangroves, backfilling of wetlands, indiscriminate felling of natural coconut and seagrape trees (which assist in slowing down coastal erosion) and beach sand mining.
6. Install environmentally safe wastewater treatment and disposal systems (the high water table rules out septic tanks and seepage installations).
7. Modify development plans so as to avoid dredging of the lagoon, destruction of seagrass beds and other activities that will adversely affect the delicately balanced and already threatened ecosystem in and around Pigeon Point.
How can we ensure that these proposals happen? The new owner of Pigeon Point Estate represents a powerful group of companies doing business and selling products in Trinidad and Tobago. If our proposals are ignored, then we suggest a ‘People’s Pocket Protest’. We can select a different brand of beer, shop in another store, read an alternative newspaper and use a different insurance company. No time off is required from our regular work and other activities, no marching in the rain and sun, no exposure to tear gas, no fear of victimization. All that is required is for a sufficient number of concerned persons to quietly exercise our option not to buy from those who use our money against us.
Mr Emile Louis,
All Tobago Fisherfolk Association,
Trinidad and Tobago.
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