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EDITORIAL: Cement debate will clear air


EDITORIAL: Cement debate will clear air

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CONTRARY TO THE NOISE coming from some quarters, we find the growing debate over whether a private company should be allowed to set up a cement plant near the Flour Mill on Spring Garden Highway to be quite healthy. And we do not believe anyone should try to stifle the discussion.

Those who make up the group Residents Against Dust should be encouraged to ventilate their concerns and fears, for in so doing they will give the developers of the project as well as the regulators of such operations the opportunity to enlighten the whole country on such matters. It is good for the process of governance, and once conducted properly can only advance the mechanisms that help to create a mature democracy.

We implore the leaders of Rock Hard Cement to see this as an opportunity to clearly outline their plan and spell out for those who believe they could be adversely affected all the safety equipment and standards that will be employed. We believe it would also be in the best interest of residents to be reasoned and considered in their arguments, while resisting the urge to be unreasonably emotional.

Perhaps it would also serve well those who now find themselves defending the project to keep in mind that residents of Brandons, Brighton and neighbouring areas are most likely highly influenced by the less than comfortable lives people residing around the Arawak Cement Plant in Checker Hall, St Lucy, have lived for several years because of the dust that has rained on them so often.

For decades before the Arawak plant was built tens of thousands of tonnes of cement passed through the Bridgetown Port each year – a stone’s throw away from the proposed site for Rock Hard Cement. Granted there was no processing plant, but we are reasonably sure that once the safety guidelines are put in place and those who are responsible for monitoring do their jobs, residents should be no worse off than living next to a port that handles cement shipments.

But there is another aspect of the project that all involved should consider. The Flour Mill site, as it is called, is a man-made piece of land that was carved out of the sea specifically for industrial use. It was designed to be utilised for projects such as Rock Hard Cement and the Flour Mill. And we are reasonably sure it was constructed there because the prevailing winds travel in a westerly direction and should carry any source of discomfort out to sea rather than in the direction of residents in Brighton or Brandons.

Notwithstanding all we have said so far, however, perhaps the most important thing that can come out of this debate is a clear understanding on all sides of what the best process toward establishing such projects should be. Maybe there should be a statutory requirement that companies contemplating such industrial projects publish in specific terms their interest or intent, followed by a clearly outlined chain of events towards approval, including multiple channels of feedback and public discussion.

What this would do, we believe, is provoke a more structured public debate on the pros and cons of the proposals in a non-adversarial environment, rather than what is now occurring, where residents appear to believe they are fighting big business with certain advantages, while those behind the project are left to think residents are out to scuttle their investment without justification.

The process towards the establishment of such projects is what should be under scrutiny.