maracas stage down

Scaffolding on the Sand: Maracas Bay yesterday morning.

The controversial “sea stage” that was being constructed at Maracas Beach has been removed.

The Urban Development Corporation of Trinidad and Tobago (UDeCOTT) confirmed that the structure had been taken down yesterday morning by the promoters of the Karukera One Love Beach Festival.

Questions were raised last Friday about who authorised the festival promoters to construct the sea stage.

UDeCOTT said then that it had granted approval for the event to be hosted at the beach, but was against the location of the stage.

Chief Fire Officer Marlon Smith also said the promoters were given permission to host the event, but no such approval was granted for the stage in the sea.

And on Sunday Minister of Agriculture, Lands and Fisheries Clarence Rambharat said he had instructed the Commissioner of State Lands to deny the promoters permission to construct the structure on the seabed.

In a release yesterday, UDeCOTT communications manager Roxanne Stapleton-Whyms said steps are being taken by the event organisers to acquire all the necessary approvals which are mandatory for the dispatch of final approval. She said good sense had prevailed.

“UDeCOTT maintains that all events at its various venues are subject to receive all requisite statutory approvals deemed necessary which include approvals from the fire services, police, Environmental Management Authority and Commissioner of State Lands before final approval is granted by the corporation for events to take place,” she said.

‘Dangerously reckless’ 

However, environmental group Fishermen and Friends of the Sea (FFOS) said simply moving the stage is not enough and the event should not be allowed on the beach at all.

In a statement yesterday, FFOS' corporate secretary Gary Aboud commended Rambharat for intervening, but said a beach is not a fete hall and should not be treated as such.

“This beach is a public recreational space and as part of our natural history lends itself to certain activities. A beach is not a fete hall and the idea that we are allowing our natural recreational public spaces to be used for massive fetes and other large-scale private events seems to us to be a misuse of our natural assets,” he said.

Aboud added that the North Coast Road is not designed for heavy traffic.

“North Coast communities are served by a slim, meandering, arterial road that already suffers from automotive congestion on any given weekend. When these extremely large fete events take place, without any oversight of the maximum carrying capacity of the beach or road, it becomes dangerously overcrowded and congested,” he said.

“Public safety should never be disregarded or threatened and in our respectful view we need to take a long, hard look at public safety. Any resident or attendee who has a medical emergency cannot get in or out and this is dangerously reckless. How many lifeguards will be posted and can they keep track of unknown thousands of drinking or zessed up attendees?” he said.

The environmentalist said the event would also add to pollution.

“When paints, powder, foam and other unnatural materials are used in these events, the beach remains heavily littered and the sand and the water are polluted. Is this responsible conduct for a beach with nesting turtles?”

Aboud called for public consultation on the use of public spaces for private events.

In a brief response to the Express yesterday Rambharat said he has done what he needed to do and environmental concerns are the remit of the Environmental Management Authority (EMA).

Efforts to reach EMA chairman Nadra Nathai-Gyan for comment yesterday were unsuccessful.

A government minister is in support of building the stage in the sea at Maracas Bay.

Minister in the Ministry of Education, Dr Lovell Francis, posted on Facebook yesterday:

“Guadeloupe has a history which basically says that the Caribbean is a backwater and that France is the centre of the universe. But there is a tremendous cultural shift happening there which is seeking to bridge an historical divide and establish closer cultural and economic linkages with the wider Caribbean. And that is how I ended up at the Karukera One Love Festival in Guadeloupe last year and I am glad that it is here this year. Much has been made of the previously planned construction of a stage in the sea which makes little practical sense. If built there would have been no issues. This festival has been held region wide and in France without problems and I think that Trinidad is on the same planet. But that has been settled.... and five hundred visitors are expected here for this event alone and I wish the organisers well not just for the event but the evolution of a longer-term relationship between us and Guadeloupe.”

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