Rainbow Falls - Not Yours to Discover
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Rainbow Falls - Not Yours to Discover

On Friday 3rd November, 2000, I made a visit to the Rainbow Falls located at the Goldsborough River. This is a waterfall that has been advertised within recent times but it is one that many locals and visitors have never visited. One of my reasons for visiting the falls was to take photographs for an exhibit to highlight the Rainbow Falls as one of Tobago’s natural attractions. This was in keeping with the theme for Tourism Week: "Rediscover the Majestic Wonders of Tourism in Trinidad and Tobago".

Rainbow Falls, Goldsborough River.

In seeking to access the waterfalls by way of Cow Farm Road I was in for a rude surprise. The last half-mile of roadway before reaching the river was a sea of mud. This made walking along the road almost impossible. One had to make several detours into the bush to bypass several mud pits literally spanning the width of the roadway. In some places the mud was more than one foot deep. Six trucks fully loaded with gravel passed by within the space of forty-five minutes. When I arrived at the river, more surprises were in store.

At the river I encountered a bright red excavator in the process of loading a truck with gravel. A huge trench, more than four feet deep had been dug in the river bed. There was clear evidence that a huge gravel mining operation was taking place. Further up the river there were other trenches and pits. What was once a very beautiful scene of nature has been transformed into an ugly spectacle. About 300 feet before reaching the falls I came across another excavator parked in the bushes. The evidence displayed suggested that this second excavator was being used to mine boulders from the riverbed.

Gravel Mining at Goldsborough River.

Rainbow Falls is no longer a Majestic Wonder to rediscover, that is, unless you want to wade or drive through half mile of mud and also risk drowning in one of the trenches dug in the river bed. The mining activities at Goldsborough River are a cause for serious concern. Here we have a natural asset that can be developed as a major tourist attraction being systematically destroyed by the process of gravel mining. Have we gone crazy here on this island?

Investigations have revealed that materials being mined from the Goldsborough River are being used on a particular road building project and that one of the excavators has been contracted to the THA for mining boulders for galbion baskets. The justification being offered is that the rocks from the Studley Park quarry are too valuable for use in galbion baskets. My question therefore is "What is the value of the Goldborough River and the Rainbow Falls as a Tourism asset?". Is it not self-defeating to be destroying our natural attractions to build roads to accommodate the tourists who travel to see these attractions.

The mining of aggregate from the rivers of Tobago is contrary to the policy of the THA as outlined in the Tobago Development Plan, 1999. Is the THA operating in conflict with it’s own policy? The establishment of the Studley Park Quarry was supposed to put an end to mining of the Goldsborough River. The crushing plant at Studley Park is being operated at less than 25% capacity (Tobago Development Plan figures). Substantial state funds have been invested in the Studley Park Quarry since 1982. Why then has the THA returned to mining of the Goldsborough River? Something seems to be very wrong here.

The State is not the only culprit at the Goldsborough River. Private contractors are also at work. Are these private gravel miners paying royalties to the state for the materials extracted or have they found a gold mine? Are they going to restore the roadway that has been so badly damaged? What about the interests of those people who have gained an income from conducting tours to Rainbow Falls? Has anyone noticed that the river is eroding its bank downstream to the extent that part of Cow Farm Road has fallen into the river? Any good Geography student will know that if you reduce the load of a river it’s power to erode increases. Removing gravel and boulders reduces the river load.

In 1994 the THA established a sub-committee to examine the situation of aggregate supply in Tobago. The sub-committee submitted its report in1995. This report made several important conclusions and recommendations. At a public consultation, representatives of the THA gave an undertaking that a working group would be set up to develop the necessary policies and implement the recommendations. The return to mining at Goldsborough River is indicative that certain policies have not been implemented. It is not too late however for the THA to act in stopping gravel mining at the Goldsborough River and other rivers in Tobago. - Kamau Akili - President - Environment TOBAGO - 13 November, 2000
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