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Sand mining debacle – controversy

the water is not from the rain its ground  sea-waterThere has been some strong concerns over sand mining which has shifted for over 20 years from one area to the next, since the days of former Chief Minister from 1991-96 and then Premier, Reuben Meade from 2009-10-14. C M Meade government during 1991-96 regulated the sand mining. Since the volcanic crisis and more particularly since 2009 sand mining rose to the forefront when mining in the Trant’s area ceased because of the volcanic destruction in the area.

There was the challenge of mining of ghaut sand in Isles Bay area, which matter also found its way into the High Court. Then comes an observation following continuing sand mining in the Carrs Bay and Little Bay, then Foxes Bay; the Foxes Bay matter getting the former Premier jumping in the action.20160102_120653

Lawyer Jean Kelsick wrote to Claude Hogan, Minister with responsibility for the Environment regarding sand mining at Carrs Bay. (see www.themontserratreporter.com) The follow up of that follows.

We had previously published (http://www.themontserratreporter.com/early-follow-up-response-and-more-on-lawyer-kelsicks-carrs-bay-beach-letter/) which featured an article from Claude Gerald on the sand mining issue. He has for years sought to address and raise the consciousness of sandmining in the island.

DSC_1951Lawyer Kelsick in following up on Minister Hogan’s response wrote back and published the following:

Dear Minister Hogan

Your claim in your 25 May, 2016 email, replying to my complaint about sand mining at Carrs Bay that the removal of sand in this area is intended to protect business premises in this area is misleading. My investigation into the matter, assisted by Mr Julian Romeo whose business place is at Carrs Bay, revealed that in order to protect these premises, Government must do two things: it must dredge the ghaut immediately below Delta Petroleum, which overflows in heavy rain flooding both Delta and Romeos, and it must keep open the channel at Carrs Bay Beach that empties water from Romeos into the beach through an outlet running under the main road.20151213_panoramic of Carrs Bay

In fact, the recent sand mining at Carrs Bay has blocked the channel, thus exposing Romeos to even greater risk. Moreover, the mouth of the ghaut was not excavated at all. Instead, a large quantity of sand was scooped up indiscriminately over a wide expanse of the beach. In the process tree branches in the bird sanctuary were broken, the magazine and fort have been put at risk and the area is now an eyesore.

You claim that there is a history of sand mining at Carrs Bay.  I am not aware of this.  In any event, this is no justification for continuing a harmful practice. Indeed, PDM promised to discontinue the ruinous environmental practices of the Reuben Meade government. This was one reason why PDM was elected. I would like to remind you that PDM’s manifesto, which I imagine you helped to write, states as follows:

“Everything we do requires energy and affects the environment. If we mismanage

environmental resources and hazards, we harm our well-being. Our natural heritage, peace, tranquility and security are our greatest assets as a country, and in a day when 90% of tourists factor environmental concerns into their chosen destinations, we must be very committed to ensuring that our development ensures that we care for our environment.”

Your dramatic volte-face reminds me of the old saying “said as smoothly as a politician reneging on a campaign promise”. To add insult to injury, as I write a massive hole is being gouged out of the entrance of Foxes Bay beach in order to remove sand. Presumably, your Ministry issued the necessary mining permit. This is disgraceful. Foxes Bay is one of Montserrat’s premier recreational beaches and turtle nesting sites. Sand is being removed from Little Bay periodically without permission. In short there is no control. The law is being observed in the breach. The PDM government, with you apparently leading the charge, is condoning irresponsible and destructive sand mining practices. Instead of caring for Montserrat’s environment as it promised to do, the PDM Government is destroying it.

You use the hurricane season to justify the “harvesting” of sand at Carrs Bay. However, the beginning of the hurricane season is the worst time to remove sand from Carrs Bay as this exposes the beach and the main road above it, to much greater risk of erosion if there are hurricane seas.

There is a general public perception that only PDM party supporters got the sand and they will sell it to the public at a substantial profit.  Is this true?

The reasons advanced by you for excusing the degradation of Carrs Bay are a pretext for what appears to be a callous sand grab. Sand is being plundered from the beach because it is close by and easy to access. The sand grab at Carrs Bay reminds me of the top soil grab a few years ago at the geothermal sites at Weekes. A vast quantity of prime top soil was raided from some of Montserrat’s best agricultural land with the connivance of the previous Government. It is now being sold at a handsome profit. At the time, I wrote to the then Governor (in whom all Crown land is vested) Adrian Davis asking him to put a stop to it but was informed by him that after consulting with the then Premier, Rueben Meade, he saw nothing wrong with what was going on.

My original complaint to you about Carrs Bay was copied to the current Governor Elizabeth Carrier and the Montserrat National Trust, both of whom have remained conspicuously silent. In view of its mandate and stated objectives, the Trust has a duty to condemn publicly what is happening to Montserrat’s beaches. Its failure to do so is quite remarkable. As the custodian of all Crown property and, having regard to Britain’s local and international environmental commitments and duty to curb misconduct by the local Government, the Governor has an obligation duty to stop the damage to Montserrat’s beaches.

You also claim that Government’s environmentalists approved the removal of sand from Carr’s Bay, which you describe as a good practice. I wonder if these are the same environmentalists who either approved the destruction of Piper’s Pond and Gunn Hill or stood idly by. The independent environmentalists whose input I have received say that generally speaking beach sand should not be mined as this invariably leads to beach erosion. There is always a natural shift of sand from one area to another. Removal changes these natural patterns and lowers the shoreline’s defences.

Sand mining at Carrs Bays has resulted in the contravention of not one but three of Montserrat statutes. The Conservation and Environmental Management Act states that it is the duty of the Minister of the Environment not only to protect the environment but to ensure that Montserrat meets its international obligations with respect to the environment. For three reasons, under the Act the Director of the Environment should have issued a certificate of environmental approval in advance of the removal of any sand. First, more than sixty cubic yards of sand was removed.

Second, as you well or should know, Carrs Bay is a nesting site for marine turtles. Third, sand removal may undermine the magazine and gun emplacement at Carrs Bay, both of which are features of cultural or heritage importance. Please clarify if a certificate was issued and kindly provide me with a copy of it. In addition, the Act makes it a criminal offence to damage the fauna or flora in a protected are, which under the Act Carrs Bay is.

Under the Beaches Protection Act it is a criminal offence for anyone to use a vehicle to remove sand from a beach without a permit from the Permanent Secretary. Please clarify if such a permit was issued and kindly provide me with a copy of it.

Under the Physical Planning Act written planning permission from the Planning and Development Authority is required before any watercourse or channel is dredged. In light of your statement that the ghaut was cleared, please let me know if written permission was given by the Authority and kindly provide me with a copy of it.

My authority to make these requests of you is grounded in the fact that the law authorizes any interested person to take the necessary action if the environment is being damaged.

It is my intention to give formal notice to the Director of the Environment under the Conservation and Environmental Management Act that a violation of an environmental requirement has taken place. The Act states that any interested member of the public may do so. If the Director fails to commence an enforcement action in sixty days’ time, I will appeal his inaction to the Physical Planning and Environmental (Appeals) Tribunal. If, in turn, the Tribunal fails to act I will take the matter to court. There are many instances in the region of our courts controlling environmental degradation by cynical and irresponsible governments.

Joined by other concerned citizens, I will also give consideration to requesting the police to bring criminal charges under the relevant statutes against the sandminers and their accomplices in government.

While I wholeheartedly support progress and the construction industry’s need for beach sand, both can be achieved without ruining our beaches. It would appear that Montserrat’s environment is unsafe in your hands and the public must now resort to the court to protect it. The very individuals who are entrusted by the laws of the land to protect the environment i.e., you as Minister of the Environment, the Chief Fisheries Officer who spearheaded and personally supervised the recent sand mining exercise at Carrs Bay, and Government’s environmentalists are instead the villains of the piece.

Yours sincerely

Jean Kelsick

A call to ZJB radio had discounted completely the claim by the Minister saying that no sand had been taken from the ghaut-mouth and in fact the sand removal was endangering the environment and businesses in the area.

Then comes further upheavals as reported by DiscoverMni: “Montserrat Residents and Former Premier Outraged at Public Beach Sand Mining.” The report records former Premier Meade joining Kelsick’s observation and complaints, questioning the statement by current Minister of Agriculture and Lands

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A Moment with the Registrar of Lands

the water is not from the rain its ground  sea-waterThere has been some strong concerns over sand mining which has shifted for over 20 years from one area to the next, since the days of former Chief Minister from 1991-96 and then Premier, Reuben Meade from 2009-10-14. C M Meade government during 1991-96 regulated the sand mining. Since the volcanic crisis and more particularly since 2009 sand mining rose to the forefront when mining in the Trant’s area ceased because of the volcanic destruction in the area.

There was the challenge of mining of ghaut sand in Isles Bay area, which matter also found its way into the High Court. Then comes an observation following continuing sand mining in the Carrs Bay and Little Bay, then Foxes Bay; the Foxes Bay matter getting the former Premier jumping in the action.20160102_120653

Lawyer Jean Kelsick wrote to Claude Hogan, Minister with responsibility for the Environment regarding sand mining at Carrs Bay. (see www.themontserratreporter.com) The follow up of that follows.

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We had previously published (http://www.themontserratreporter.com/early-follow-up-response-and-more-on-lawyer-kelsicks-carrs-bay-beach-letter/) which featured an article from Claude Gerald on the sand mining issue. He has for years sought to address and raise the consciousness of sandmining in the island.

DSC_1951Lawyer Kelsick in following up on Minister Hogan’s response wrote back and published the following:

Dear Minister Hogan

Your claim in your 25 May, 2016 email, replying to my complaint about sand mining at Carrs Bay that the removal of sand in this area is intended to protect business premises in this area is misleading. My investigation into the matter, assisted by Mr Julian Romeo whose business place is at Carrs Bay, revealed that in order to protect these premises, Government must do two things: it must dredge the ghaut immediately below Delta Petroleum, which overflows in heavy rain flooding both Delta and Romeos, and it must keep open the channel at Carrs Bay Beach that empties water from Romeos into the beach through an outlet running under the main road.20151213_panoramic of Carrs Bay

In fact, the recent sand mining at Carrs Bay has blocked the channel, thus exposing Romeos to even greater risk. Moreover, the mouth of the ghaut was not excavated at all. Instead, a large quantity of sand was scooped up indiscriminately over a wide expanse of the beach. In the process tree branches in the bird sanctuary were broken, the magazine and fort have been put at risk and the area is now an eyesore.

You claim that there is a history of sand mining at Carrs Bay.  I am not aware of this.  In any event, this is no justification for continuing a harmful practice. Indeed, PDM promised to discontinue the ruinous environmental practices of the Reuben Meade government. This was one reason why PDM was elected. I would like to remind you that PDM’s manifesto, which I imagine you helped to write, states as follows:

“Everything we do requires energy and affects the environment. If we mismanage

environmental resources and hazards, we harm our well-being. Our natural heritage, peace, tranquility and security are our greatest assets as a country, and in a day when 90% of tourists factor environmental concerns into their chosen destinations, we must be very committed to ensuring that our development ensures that we care for our environment.”

Your dramatic volte-face reminds me of the old saying “said as smoothly as a politician reneging on a campaign promise”. To add insult to injury, as I write a massive hole is being gouged out of the entrance of Foxes Bay beach in order to remove sand. Presumably, your Ministry issued the necessary mining permit. This is disgraceful. Foxes Bay is one of Montserrat’s premier recreational beaches and turtle nesting sites. Sand is being removed from Little Bay periodically without permission. In short there is no control. The law is being observed in the breach. The PDM government, with you apparently leading the charge, is condoning irresponsible and destructive sand mining practices. Instead of caring for Montserrat’s environment as it promised to do, the PDM Government is destroying it.

You use the hurricane season to justify the “harvesting” of sand at Carrs Bay. However, the beginning of the hurricane season is the worst time to remove sand from Carrs Bay as this exposes the beach and the main road above it, to much greater risk of erosion if there are hurricane seas.

There is a general public perception that only PDM party supporters got the sand and they will sell it to the public at a substantial profit.  Is this true?

The reasons advanced by you for excusing the degradation of Carrs Bay are a pretext for what appears to be a callous sand grab. Sand is being plundered from the beach because it is close by and easy to access. The sand grab at Carrs Bay reminds me of the top soil grab a few years ago at the geothermal sites at Weekes. A vast quantity of prime top soil was raided from some of Montserrat’s best agricultural land with the connivance of the previous Government. It is now being sold at a handsome profit. At the time, I wrote to the then Governor (in whom all Crown land is vested) Adrian Davis asking him to put a stop to it but was informed by him that after consulting with the then Premier, Rueben Meade, he saw nothing wrong with what was going on.

My original complaint to you about Carrs Bay was copied to the current Governor Elizabeth Carrier and the Montserrat National Trust, both of whom have remained conspicuously silent. In view of its mandate and stated objectives, the Trust has a duty to condemn publicly what is happening to Montserrat’s beaches. Its failure to do so is quite remarkable. As the custodian of all Crown property and, having regard to Britain’s local and international environmental commitments and duty to curb misconduct by the local Government, the Governor has an obligation duty to stop the damage to Montserrat’s beaches.

You also claim that Government’s environmentalists approved the removal of sand from Carr’s Bay, which you describe as a good practice. I wonder if these are the same environmentalists who either approved the destruction of Piper’s Pond and Gunn Hill or stood idly by. The independent environmentalists whose input I have received say that generally speaking beach sand should not be mined as this invariably leads to beach erosion. There is always a natural shift of sand from one area to another. Removal changes these natural patterns and lowers the shoreline’s defences.

Sand mining at Carrs Bays has resulted in the contravention of not one but three of Montserrat statutes. The Conservation and Environmental Management Act states that it is the duty of the Minister of the Environment not only to protect the environment but to ensure that Montserrat meets its international obligations with respect to the environment. For three reasons, under the Act the Director of the Environment should have issued a certificate of environmental approval in advance of the removal of any sand. First, more than sixty cubic yards of sand was removed.

Second, as you well or should know, Carrs Bay is a nesting site for marine turtles. Third, sand removal may undermine the magazine and gun emplacement at Carrs Bay, both of which are features of cultural or heritage importance. Please clarify if a certificate was issued and kindly provide me with a copy of it. In addition, the Act makes it a criminal offence to damage the fauna or flora in a protected are, which under the Act Carrs Bay is.

Under the Beaches Protection Act it is a criminal offence for anyone to use a vehicle to remove sand from a beach without a permit from the Permanent Secretary. Please clarify if such a permit was issued and kindly provide me with a copy of it.

Under the Physical Planning Act written planning permission from the Planning and Development Authority is required before any watercourse or channel is dredged. In light of your statement that the ghaut was cleared, please let me know if written permission was given by the Authority and kindly provide me with a copy of it.

My authority to make these requests of you is grounded in the fact that the law authorizes any interested person to take the necessary action if the environment is being damaged.

It is my intention to give formal notice to the Director of the Environment under the Conservation and Environmental Management Act that a violation of an environmental requirement has taken place. The Act states that any interested member of the public may do so. If the Director fails to commence an enforcement action in sixty days’ time, I will appeal his inaction to the Physical Planning and Environmental (Appeals) Tribunal. If, in turn, the Tribunal fails to act I will take the matter to court. There are many instances in the region of our courts controlling environmental degradation by cynical and irresponsible governments.

Joined by other concerned citizens, I will also give consideration to requesting the police to bring criminal charges under the relevant statutes against the sandminers and their accomplices in government.

While I wholeheartedly support progress and the construction industry’s need for beach sand, both can be achieved without ruining our beaches. It would appear that Montserrat’s environment is unsafe in your hands and the public must now resort to the court to protect it. The very individuals who are entrusted by the laws of the land to protect the environment i.e., you as Minister of the Environment, the Chief Fisheries Officer who spearheaded and personally supervised the recent sand mining exercise at Carrs Bay, and Government’s environmentalists are instead the villains of the piece.

Yours sincerely

Jean Kelsick

A call to ZJB radio had discounted completely the claim by the Minister saying that no sand had been taken from the ghaut-mouth and in fact the sand removal was endangering the environment and businesses in the area.

Then comes further upheavals as reported by DiscoverMni: “Montserrat Residents and Former Premier Outraged at Public Beach Sand Mining.” The report records former Premier Meade joining Kelsick’s observation and complaints, questioning the statement by current Minister of Agriculture and Lands