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Diversification—Another view (Part 4)

Thursday, December 8, 2016
Horizons of Hope
The Nariva wetlands are in the Central East region, as defined by Ivan Laughlin, who believes that we should carefully consider how we develop eastern Trinidad in order to preserve precious natural features as well as help villagers sustain themselves.

My previous three articles have attempted to provide a perspective for the future development of the eastern coastal areas of Trinidad. In that context, the area was divided into the three regions:

• North East—This encompasses all the villages from Matura through Salybia, Rampanalgas, Cumana, Toco, Sans Souci, Grande Riviere and Matelot, as well as the rainforest lying to the west and south. 

• Central East—This region straddles the territory to include Fishing Pond, North Manzanilla, Manzanilla and Nariva, of course, especially including the wetlands and the long stretches of beach. 

• South East—Stretching from Nariva to Mayaro and Guayaguayare, embracing the fisherfolk, the Atlantic coast with the long-standing resorts and the petroleum industry.

The intention always is to provide not just a vision but a physical perception as to what would be the fundamental focus of the way in which human settlements can grow and expand in a sustainable fashion. This then raises issues of the form of infrastructure appropriate for the development perspective that could emerge from the way I am seeing eastern Trinidad.

This, in my judgment, is quite different to what has emerged in west Trinidad. The coastal area of west Trinidad embraces the Gulf of Paria where anchorage has traditionally been ideal for purposes of trade. It is also where the petroleum industry has been rooted, thereby creating the need for infrastructure suitable for industrial, commercial, agricultural and residential land usages. Eastern Trinidad therefore allows the country to see this section of our island through different lenses, offering different development endeavours necessary for the articulation of another life.

It is my view that we are in a situation where we need a careful conversation about how we can undertake such endeavours. That is why I have started with the North East region with the view that we should be very cautious about another road to Toco and the location of a ferry port for the primary focus being travel between Toco and Scarborough and vice versa.


Anchor development in the villages

My articles are suggesting an overall perspective of the development of the North East region, the focus of which is anchoring development in the villages in their own right and with rather unique connections to what I have suggested as a national park, which in fact is cradled by the surrounding villages and the coastal area.

In so doing, I perceive of village expansion, village commerce, village tourism all being major economic endeavours that would make the North East region a place of community viability.

I have put these ideas and these thoughts in black and white in the hope that the creative imagination of our people could add their views as to how we could generate another development thrust in this section of our Island.

This is the underlying premise of my work and when a major development is being planned for a strategically located region of the country, I always capture my expressions in three volumes, defining my human settlement perceptions:

• What was: This entails formulating the historical forces, external and internal, that have influenced significantly one way or another the ownership, use and development of the islands of T&T.

• What is: The extent of which those formulations and the trends that they have generated have influenced the physical development of the islands and the positive and negative impacts those trends have established in the current status of the development process.

• What can be: Utilising these two significant factors, my intention always is to define and articulate the current land use realities and development projections that can offer opportunities for reshaping the development trends to ensure that sustainability and community viability can be achieved.


‘Experts’ and ‘Inperts’

Central to this philosophical and implementable approach is involvement.

This is a critical ingredient in the development process and I say so because my emphasis on this was influenced by an occasion when I was in Nairobi, Kenya in 1987 when the United Nations Centre for Human Settlements (UNCHS) had gathered their membership to address the issues of the international year of shelter for the homeless. At this time, I was also part of the Sou Sou Land community based organisation. There, I met John Turner, the renowned British architect who had pioneered self-help in housing in Peru, and as a result of his work there, he spent time with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and London University.

John and I were interviewed by a reporter from Finland to talk about our work related to land for the landless and similar human settlement initiatives. After a lengthy discourse (during which there were one or two or more beverages enjoyed by ourselves), Turner said: “Ivan, always remember that an expert is someone who has specialist training and can bring that training to bear on a human settlement, but in all these human settlements, there are people who live there every day. They have a good idea of what the problems are, and what the solutions should be. Those people I call inperts, and if the expert would only listen to the inpert, then you would have sustainable development.”

That is one of my fundamental factors for human settlement development. We must listen to the voices not only of the land, but of those people who inhabit the land. These strategic inputs are necessary in deciding those development activities that can generate sustainable development and community viability.

I say this because the focus for the country in this period of economic recession should be the effective need for the diversification to be at the centre of economic planning and physical development strategies.


Therefore implementation strategies, in relation to government expenditures based on revenue generated by the State or on the basis of loans from international lending agencies and local financial institutions, have to be carefully assessed.

That is why we have to ask ourselves: “How should governmental expenditure be prioritised in relation to the North East region? What are the benefits to be derived from a new first class road from Valencia to Toco with a ferry port built in Toco so as to create linkages between Toco and Scarborough? What positive impact will this have on the North East region and in fact on the country?”

In my view, the ferry port has to be considered apart from the need for the first class road, and I have said this in previous articles.

It is my considered opinion that the focus of expenditure should first be to improve the quality of life in the villages that stretch from Matura to Matelot, and should therefore focus on economic endeavours that can enhance the social and economic welfare of not only this region of the country but also signal to the country new forms of economic endeavours. That is why I have outlined the powerful stimulation for economic development rooted in the Paria National Park.



The expenditure needed, in my judgement, should involve the following:

• Upgrade the existing Toco Main Road and Paria Main Road, with deviations that may be required along the way (this will also provide work for the contracting fraternity), rather than building another road (whatever the class).

• Upgrade all the fishing depots as a primary development expenditure, because in this way these depots would also become part and parcel of access to the National Park.

• Ensure that the villages themselves can be upgraded so that village commerce, village tourism and communal facilities could together generate early feelings of community viability.

I say these things because the perspective I have tried to suggest is to put on the table of national discourse another view for consideration by the experts and the inperts.

In my next article, I am going to try to articulate the way in which the sense of community viability in the surrounding villages in relation to their everyday lives, the significance of a ferry port, carefully chosen, without the need for another road to Toco, and the coming into being of the Paria National Park, could positively impact on the national thrust for diversificaiton as it relates specifically to the North East region. In so doing, I will also identify the clear linkages of the other two regions of East Trinidad.

“The focus of expenditure should first be to improve the quality of life in the villages that stretch from Matura to Matelot, and should therefore focus on economic endeavours that can enhance the social and economic welfare of not only this region of the country but also signal to the country new forms of economic endeavours.” 

Land Surveyor & Human Settlement practitioner


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