Querying That Toco Port Plan

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OF late there has been much debate on the Toco highway/port. Last week the Sunday Express featured the conclusion to a series of articles on the subject with hardly a point about its feasibility. On June 2 another article, seemingly by the ‘stakeholders’, gave a completely different view.

I wonder at how two ‘factually’ derived positions on the issue can be so diametrically opposed to each other, heightening my scepticism about the nature of the research, its objectivity, how selective researchers can be in the choice of ‘facts’, whose interests are being served by such ‘facts’, and the like, so much so that I would like to take a more common-sense, man-in-the-street approach to the issue through a few questions and see what I come up with, as follows: 1. Why a port in Toco? If it is to upgrade the community, that on the surface seems fine, if it means to ‘modernise’ it , but why change the rurality of Toco and bring in the ‘madding crowd’ when the people may be quite content with their simple way of life of fishing, looking after the turtles, engaging in smallscale agriculture, enjoying the pristine environment and the like? There is virtue in this collective way for which no ‘upgrade’ can be a substitute. On the same continuum, would a new highway be something of an intrusion, indeed a contradiction, to the untouched rurality of communities along the way? Why is there the presumption that rural people would relish an ‘urban’ substitute with all its proven negatives?

2. What can an actual port at Toco do that isn’t being done at the ports in Port of Spain, Point Lisas, even La Brea and its oncoming dry dock? All the infrastructure is already in place at these points for this purpose, and would business people see a port in distant Toco as a viable commercial alternative? The same can be said for the intended ferry service that the Toco port would facilitate. Would commuters be willing to travel the distance to Toco when there is the more convenient alternative in Port of Spain? On another issue, one oil company has already indicated that it is not best practice to include other commercial activities with that of oil which the Toco port is intended to facilitate.

3. What of the actual construction of the port at Toco? As a layman, I see the engineering challenge as formidable, considering the ‘flat’ terrain on the beach, without any natural deep water feature to facilitate the construction of a harbour, and the prospect of ‘break water’ impediments in an area noted for its very rough seas and high winds seems unrealistic. But even with that, the dredging at the Clifton Hill beach-the Maracas of the South-for Atlantic LNG, with its once green, deep, swimmer- friendly waters and the consequence of a highly eroded coastline with extremely strong currents should be a lesson for those who wish to dredge Toco.

4. Finally, why would anyone want to undertake a project that is formidable in terms of cost, equally so in terms of engineering demands and is of questionable benefit to a community already set in its ways, and destructive to an environment which is integral to that mode, when there are so many other priorities like unfinished schools, among other things.

There is something here that I don’t quite understand! Do you?

Errol N Benjamin