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Dominica residents raise health concerns over geothermal project

Friday, January 11, 2013    

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ROSEAU, Dominica - THE Dominica government has confirmed that experts are being brought into the country as it seeks to allay the health concerns of the residents in the Roseau Valley where most of its geothermal projects are being undertaken.

Minister for Employment, Trade, Industry and Diaspora Affairs Dr Collin McIntyre, who is also the parliamentary representative for the area, said Wednesday that Cabinet had met earlier to discuss the health and other issues raised by the residents.

"'The health concerns of the people of the Roseau Valley are extremely important to us and...we are hearing concerns being raised by the people with reference to poisonous gases, volcanoes, earthquakes and of course the land issue," McIntyre said.

He said the health concerns would be addressed from a "scientific point of view", adding "we are not in the business with this project of just releasing gases that are toxic to our people.

"The aim of this project is for the energy to be harvested in a scientific, environmentally friendly manner so that our people in the Roseau Valley, in Dominica can benefit from a cheaper source of energy," he added.

The Dominica government says it has already spent more than EC$33 million (One EC dollar = US$0.37 cents) in developing the geothermal industry, and McIntyre said the concerns of the residents "would not be swept under the carpet.

"When I heard of the concerns, we immediately went into a discussion yesterday at Cabinet to discuss the concerns and our intention is to bring in some experts... to address the concerns of the people, so that is something we will not sweep under the carpet."

McIntyre said that at least three test wells have been drilled under the multimillion dollar geothermal project to date and the Roosevelt Skerrit government has brought in experts at every stage of the project in a bid to re-assure citizens.

McIntrye said the government is aware that ownership of land "is a very sensitive thing" and the concerns being raised by the citizens that their lands would be taken away under the land acquisition legislation at an unreasonable price "is fair enough to be concerned about.

"I would be concerned about my land as well... and we as government would never ever take people lands for development of national importance and not compensate them at all."

The minister said the geothermal project provides Dominica with a unique opportunity for future socio-economic development, adding "we are not immune to the ills of the economic crisis facing the world right now.

"We have to bear in mind that every single month the pressures our people face as a result of the high cost of electricity and energy. As a government we saw it fit to explore the resources of Dominica and one resource we have for sure... is the number of volcanic mountains on the island and the energy and we would like to explore it."

Dominica has already indicated that if the geothermal energy project is successful, the island would be seeking to export energy to the French islands of Martinique and Guadeloupe.

— CMC

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