The stage in the sea must go.
Agriculture Minister Clarence Rambharat has instructed the Commissioner of State Lands to immediately advise the promoters of the upcoming Karukera One Love Beach Festival that they are not allowed to construct a Carnival fete stage on the seabed of Maracas Bay. The minister said he will follow up to ensure that his instructions are carried out.
Rambharat told the Express yesterday that this is to ensure the public’s safety. The Karukera event, which originated in Guadeloupe, will be held on Carnival Friday from 1 p.m. to 9 p.m.
According to Karukera’s Facebook page, the festival was created to connect all the Caribbean islands by showcasing the diversity of music on a stage on the ocean, with artists from Trinidad and Tobago, Jamaica, Guadeloupe, St Lucia, Bahamas, Barbados, Martinique and more.
The festival is being hosted in collaboration with Caesar’s Army, headed by Jules Sobion, and will see performances by Machel Montano, Kees Dieffenthaller, and South London’s Afrobeat sensation, Afro B.
This is the first time it is being held in Trinidad and Tobago and in the English-speaking Caribbean.
The festival’s promoters said on Friday they received approvals from the Fire Service, Commissioner of State Lands and the Environmental Management Agency (EMA) to construct the stage. However, Rambharat said yesterday that the Commissioner of State Lands advised him that she had given a written non-objection, subject to certain conditions being met.
“After considering the matter I have concluded that no statutory body, alone or together, can protect the public in the conditions which prevail in Maracas. I consulted with persons knowledgeable,” he told the Express via telephone.
“My view was reinforced by media reports that the Acting Chief Fire Officer has said no approval was granted,” he added.
In a Facebook post yesterday, Rambharat said he has requested a report from the Commissioner of State Lands on the construction of the Carnival stage on the Maracas seabed.
He said he has also instructed the Commissioner, in writing, that no such construction should be permitted and any support given to the construction must be rescinded.
“The basis of my instruction was stated and this follows my oral instruction to that effect on January 30, 2020, when I heard informally of the plans of the event promoter,” he stated. As to whether the festival will go on, minus the stage in the sea, Rambharat said the decision to permit the event itself at Maracas Beach was out of the Ministry’s hands.
On Friday, the Urban Development Company of Trinidad and Tobago (UDeCOTT), which is the facilities manager for the Maracas Beach facility, said it only granted the festival promoters permission to host the event at Maracas, but did not authorise construction of the stage in the sea.
It said it advised the promoters to immediately remove the structure.
The Express tried to reach Sobion yesterday, but all calls to his mobile phone went unanswered.
The Express also reached out to Karukera via its Facebook page and was informed that its team members were locked in a meeting and could not respond to questions.
“As soon as they come out we will let you know,” the page’s administrator stated. Up to 7 p.m. there was no feedback from the Karukera team.
Environmental group lauds Rambharat
Environmental activist and secretary of Fishermen and Friends of the Sea (FFOS) Gary Aboud yesterday lauded Rambharat for his intervention.
“We want to commend the minister for his courage and his forthrightness in standing up for what is clearly the safer option,” he said.
Aboud said he objected to the event being held at Maracas Bay as it may not only impact the ecosystem, but can jeopardise the safety of fete patrons and residents.
“The Maracas car park and the road were not built as a high-capacity road to handle 5,000 cars, so that we are very concerned that they are using a facility that doesn’t have the infrastructure to handle the high-volume traffic. In the event of a medical emergency the North Coast would be seriously compromised,” he said.
“Also, lifeguards may not be adequately equipped to respond to an emergency if you have such a large volume of people who are drunk and/or in the ocean at the same time,” he added.
“Maracas Bay is an ecosystem. The marine ecosystem is a place where mammals and/or fish and crustaceans live and there is no determination on the impact of sound, waste on the ecosystem,” Aboud went on.
He said the village of Maracas should have been consulted about the event.
“They should not wake up one morning to find out that their beach, which they are the primary stakeholders, is being converted into a massive event and they are being forced to bear the sound,” he said.