The Tobago House of Assembly (THA) will establish a marine unit to carry out continuous cleaning of the beaches in Tobago following the invasion of the sargassum seaweed in several areas on the island.
The unit will comprise workers in the CEPEP and URP programmes, according to Secretary of Agriculture, Marine Affairs, Marketing and the Environment Assemblyman Godwin Adams. He made the disclosure on Thursday (August 27) during the August plenary sitting of the Assembly Legislature.
Adams moved a motion on the sargassum seaweed, calling on members to support the Executive Council in its efforts to mitigate its impact. The motion also called on Central Government to assist the Assembly in reducing the impact of the sargassum invasion on local industries, such as fishing and tourism, as well as on the well-being of the population.
The Secretary said the Assembly has deemed the influx of sargassum a natural disaster, and noted that such disasters can hurt the economies of developing countries, rolling back developmental gains and exacerbating inequality.
The Assembly, Adams stated, had established an inter-agency group that assessed the immediate impact of sargassum, collaborated with stakeholder in communities, executed an appropriate response plan and implemented best practices.
He said the clean-up exercise has so far cost the Assembly an estimated $4 million for the use of machinery and the employment of CEPEP and URP workers, whom he praised for hard work.
He said the Department of Natural Resources and the Environment should be beefed up and sees the need for the institutional strengthening of his Division.
Adams wants Central Government to take the lead in organising a Caricom meeting to discuss the impact of sargassum on the affected islands in the Caribbean region. “We should not sit and see Rome burns,” he stated.
“CARICOM should be able to push for support from bigger countries to seek technical advice on how it should be treated and how it can be stopped from coming to land.”
Adams said Tobago can derive economic benefits from the sargassum problem such as the production of soaps, body wash and lotions.
Secretary of Tourism and Transportation Assemblyman Tracy Davidson-Celestine said the sargassum invasion should be treated like an oil spill in Trinidad because it had the effect of affecting the economic development of the island.
She added that the pile up of mounds of sargassum can also have an impact on the tourism sector since visitors cannot access the beaches.
Secretary of Infrastructure and Public Utilities Councillor Gary Melville also praised the role CEPEP and URP workers played in the clean up exercise and said there should be some method to determine when sargassum would hit the shores of the island.
He said there should be some method for the Assembly to be able to treat with other agencies and noted that the central government has not stood up against sargassum.