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The Nariva Swamp Assessment

The 6000-hectare Nariva Swamp is the largest and most diverse freshwater wetland ecosystem in Trinidad and Tobago renowned for its unique flora, fauna, and species of animals. These special ecologi- cal features attract intense international scientific research, eco-tourists and local visitors, and with the accession of Trinidad and Tobago to the Ramsar Convention in 1992, the Nariva Swamp was designated as a wetland of international significance. In Jabar v. The Minister of Agriculture, Land and Marine Resources the High Court dis- missed constitutional motions filed by large rice cultivators that had sought to regular- ize their occupation and cultivation of crown lands in the swamp. The rice farmers were judicially described as "squatters" and "trespassers" and the right of Government to declare the swamp a prohibited area was recognized. This cleared the way for the Government to undertake an assessment of the interventions in the wetland for the purpose of mitigating any adverse impacts arising from those interventions and preparing a comprehensive management plan for the area.

The task of undertaking the EIA and preparing the management plan was assigned to the Institute of Marine Affairs (IMA) which sub-contracted assignments for which no in-house expertise could be identified, to outside consultants. The Final Report was presented to the Government in 1998 and its recommendations and implications are still being studied. Of cur- rent interest was the section of the Report dealing with the valuation of pollution dam- age done to the swamp by large-scale rice farming . The Report cited permanent dam- age done to the original system both in terms of user values ("for utilization of nat- ural products") and non-user values ("the existing value that individuals may receive for just knowing that the swamp is there"). Injury to the bequest value was also identi-



fied (the diminished value of swamp being "there for future generations").

Computation of the use value fol- lowed fairly standard criteria but for non- user values, a much more difficult art, was based upon "non-market" resource use contingency valuation. This method involves setting up a hypothetical market for the "good" being valued. A representa- tive sample of individuals was then asked to provide bids (similar to an auction) as to the appropriate value price of the good. Once the bids were secured a mean amount was obtained. The mean price was multiplied by the estimated population com- prising the market (the households in Trinidad and Tobago in order to arrive at the full social value. In this way the social value of the swamp was estimated at TT$608m (US$96.51m). Large-scale rice farming had produced major negative impacts an estimated1200 hectares of the 6,000 hectares swamp. Using strict arith- metical calculations, the environmental damage of the rice farming was estimated at TT$110.5m.

The Nariva Swamp assessment clearly produced very speculative valua- tions. It may be significant that the valua- tion exercise was undertaken for govern- ment management processes rather than for civil liability purposes. It is inconceivable that the method of computation of the value of the environmental damage would not raise constitutional and other challenges in an action against, say, the rice farmers.


The Broderick Case Broderick v. Alcoa Minerals of

Jamaica Inc. represents a typical applica- tion of common law principles to claims for redress for environmental harm. The plain- tiff lived in the parish of Clarendon within a 1.5-mile radius of the defendant's Alumina plant. The roof of his house was construct- ed of galvanized sheets and he had to effect repairs to the entire roof and ceiling

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