In May 2018 an interesting project began to quietly take root in northeast Trinidad, most specifically at the National Quarries Company Limited (NQCL) Sand and Gravel quarry site in Sangre Grande.
The project kicked off on the United Way National Day of Caring where over 300 volunteers from 15+ organisations came together, to plant 80+ trees, 4,000 vetiver grass plants and to spread waste organic matter over a wide area of barren quarried land in the form of mulch: organic materials ranging from leaves and tree cutting debris, to wood chips, ‘spent’ grain from Carib brewery, and even sargassum seaweed gathered on Trinidad’s east coast.
The Power of Organic Waste
Now what would be the purpose of spreading organic waste on the ground, you may ask
Within just four (4) months of spreading this organic matter (most of which would normally be destined for T&T’s already swelling landfills), the bare land previously void of nutrition and life was transformed into a rich ecosystem, with a thick layer of topsoil generated, and many native grasses, shrubs and saplings sprouting up – and even watermelons and cucumbers from seeds that got into the mix. Along with insects, frogs, and some more questionable visitors too!
It’s incredible sometimes what can be done through simple shifts and actions – changes in design thinking; and in this case, the channelling of organic waste streams to abandoned quarry sites is being seen to have transformative effects only just beginning to be explored and discovered in T&T. Meanwhile, our neighbour in Barbados has managed to divert 60% of their waste from landfills; and on a closer look, it becomes apparent this is exactly why – where the Bajans have been ‘upcycling’ their organics for environmental good a little while now – recognizing their ‘garbage for gold’.
Rehabilitation of Quarries
But why all of this anyway – a project to breathe life back into abandoned quarried sites in northeast Trinidad?
The reason is quite an exciting one for which citizen should be proud, where Trinidad has embarked on an historic project called the ‘Rehabilitation of Quarries (ROQ)’ underneath a larger regional ‘IWEco’ (Integrating Water, Land and Ecosystem Management in Caribbean Small Island Developing States) project, which is being implemented in T&T by the Environmental Management Authority.
The project enjoyed a strong kick off with the National Day of Caring 2018, but since then through a joint GEF-SGP-IWEco collaboration some thirty (30) dedicated and passionate community members Sangre Grande Turure and environs have been working closely alongside the NGOs ‘IAMovement’ and the ‘Trust for Sustainable Livelihoods (SusTrust)’ to become trained as ‘Quarry Rehabilitation Champions’; while rehabilitating 2 hectares (approx. 5 acres) of quarried land. Under this unique ‘pilot and learning phase’ the participants in training are gaining understanding about: vetiver grass as a bioengineering tool to combat erosion; organic mulching to rebuild topsoil; various agroforestry practices and the propagation and installation of fruit and forest trees; check dams; the effects of deforestation and climate change, and much more.
Volunteerism makes the world go round
Very importantly too, all organisations and persons involved are learning first-hand through experience what the most effective methods for quarry rehabilitation are, to determine best practices going forward – where after this pilot period, the EMA-led IWEco project in Trinidad is expected to continue for 3 more years with the goal of rehabilitating 20 hectares (50 acres) of degraded quarry lands.
The project hits on many of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals, such as #8 which focuses on ‘Decent Work and Economic Growth’ – in this case through the formation of a new trained sector of workers knowledgeable and experienced (and hopefully certified soon too) in ‘Land Rehabilitation Practices’; as well as #13 ‘Climate Action’, #15 ‘Life on Land’, and quietly but perhaps most excitingly for all those involved, #17 ‘Partnership for the Goals’. This project is unique in nature most especially because of the number of stakeholders which have come together sharing a common vision, all playing a critical role in making it happen and without whom it may not have been possible.
The Sangre Grande Regional Corporation (SGRC) for example went beyond the call of duty to help with community outreach from the beginning, to spread the word and gather interested community participants together; and also to channel valuable truckloads of organic waste to the quarry in the form of tree cuttings, leaf debris, and sargassum seaweed. CEPEP also assisted in providing grass and leaf cuttings, Carib Brewery with loads of ‘spent grain’, and SWMCOL helping to fill gaps in transport where needed.
United Way TT lent an important hand during the NDOC18 kick-off event helping other partners to get involved providing resources and hundreds of volunteer hands, including Unit Trust Corporation (UTC), Worley Parsons, and PEAKE Trading Ltd. Meanwhile, the project where it is now would not have been possible without the unwavering commitment of National Quarries Company Limited (NQCL) and recognition for the value and need for quarry rehabilitation efforts now in T&T.
Along with NQCL – the EMA, GEF SGP UNDP, IAMovement, SusTrust – and of course the trusted cohort of Quarry-Rehabilitation-Champions-in-Training forge on with hope to see a growth in appreciation for our precious remaining forest resources in T&T, and a deepening and strengthening of efforts towards implementing more sustainable practices of resource extraction – where respect and understanding is shown for the environmental damage sometimes caused; through a commitment to honouring ethical, moral and legislative requirements to help such environments be returned to their natural state in the most quick and effective way possible.
Where climate change and biodiversity loss have been identified as some of the greatest challenges and risks currently facing humanity and life on earth, efforts to continue facilitating Quarry Rehabilitation in T&T can go a long way in helping us to meet some of our international Multilateral Environmental Agreements, such the Convention on Biological Diversity and the Paris Climate Agreement; while also helping ensure a more sustainable, healthy and opportunity-rich environment for T&T’s young people and future generations to enjoy.