Trinidad and Tobago
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The EMA’s CEC process

Letters to the Editor
Newsday  -

THE EDITOR: In recent times, several comments have been made in the public arena about the Environmental Management Authority (EMA)’s Certificate of Environmental Clearance (CEC), including misinformation and lack of awareness of the process and its purpose. In this regard, the EMA seeks to provide clarity on issues raised in a recent letter to the editor by Dev Singh and, in general, the EMA’s role in the ease of doing business as it relates to environmental permits.

The EMA received an application for a CEC on August 24, 2022, for the establishment of a fruit and vegetable crop farm on 6.1 hectares of land at Coryal. An acknowledgement and a request for further information (RFI) were issued by the EMA on September 7, 2022, well within the statutory timeline of ten working days as established in the CEC Rules, 2001. Based on the information submitted in the application, the applicant is in the process of acquiring ownership of the land.

The response to the RFI was received by the EMA on November 29, 2022, approximately two and a half months after the request was made. Given that the proposed site is heavily vegetated and in proximity to the Nariva Swamp (an environmentally sensitive area), a baseline assessment was required to determine suitable best management practices to allow for the development to occur in an environmentally sustainable manner.

The response from the applicant stated that "monkeys" were some of the fauna at the site. Also critical is that the applicant’s baseline information was gathered from anecdotal information through speaking with residents in the area and not based on any scientific survey.

The Trinidad red howler and the white-fronted capuchin monkeys were recently designated as environmentally sensitive species (ESS) protected under the ESS Rules, 2001, which prohibits the taking, possession, hunting, disturbance, or trade of any ESS and the destruction of its habitat. Therefore, it is key for the assessment to determine whether these species are present within the project site.

The CEC process is one mechanism used by the EMA to regulate development and mitigate negative environmental impacts and is thus essential to sustainable development. Additionally, a CEC application is assessed based on the nature, scale and location of a proposed project. Contrary to the statements in the letter, TT’s CEC process is not exhaustive. Comparative studies, both regionally and internationally, have revealed the following processing timelines for environmental permitting, once all information is adequately provided:

* TT – 40 working days where no environmental impact assessment (EIA) is required and 80 working days if an EIA is required.

* Jamaica – 90 days at a minimum, in keeping with strict adherence to spatial planning guidelines and laws, and longer where an EIA is required.

* Guyana – three months.

* New Zealand, ranked first in ease of doing business (EDB) – 30 working days if no EIA is required and 85 working days if public participation is required, with a further 15 working days for a council hearing (the environmental decision is made only after consultation and/or when other key agency approvals are obtained).

* Singapore, ranked second in EDB – ten working days (the environmental decision is made only after consultation and/or when other key agency approvals are obtained).

* Hong Kong, ranked third in EDB – 30 days.

The EMA continuously tracks its performance, from inception to December 2022, and to date 83.5 per cent of all CEC applications received have been determined with 3,948 CECs being issued. In the issuance of these CECs, the EMA continues to be guided by the legislation and the statutory timelines enshrined within.

As is customary, the EMA is open to meeting with applicants (and prospective applicants), especially when challenges are experienced, or clarification is required. In this regard, meetings were conducted with the applicant of CEC6489/2022, including post issuance of the RFI, to explain what was required on November 9 and 14, 2022. A further meeting was held by the EMA with the applicant on January 26, subsequent to the publication of the letter to the editor, to provide additional guidance and determine what challenges were being experienced.

In accordance with the Environmental Management Act, Chap 35:05, all EMA permit applications including CECs are available for viewing by any member of the public through the EMA's national register which can be contacted at

Environmental Management Authority

Corporate Communications Unit