Review of Environmental, Social, and Labor Issues
Environmental and Labor Issues:
This is a category III project according to the IIC’s environmental and labor review procedure because it could produce certain effects that may be avoided or mitigated by following generally recognized performance standards, guidelines, or design criteria. The principal environmental and social issues related to this project include: biodiversity conservation and sustainable natural resources management, waste management, occupational health and safety, and community relations.
As part of the environmental assessment, the following documents were reviewed:
The Environmental Impact Assessment (for the Colombian portion of the cable) prepared by Symbio Consultores EU (January 2010), the Environmental Management Plan for the submarine cable from Santiago de Tolú-Isla de San Andrés prepared by T & T Consultores Ambientales (February 10, 2010), and the Environmental Impact Assessment (Category I) for the installation, operation and maintenance of the Panamanian section of the fiber optic cable prepared by T & T Consultores Ambientales, S.A. (February 28, 2010).
Biodiversity Conservation and Sustainable Natural Resource Management: The cable will be laid in areas where it will not endanger coral reefs or sensitive habitats. The landing stations in San Andrés and Colón are in rural areas; the landing station in Tolú is in an urban area. Regarding the terrestrial cable, the road right-of-way permit has already been obtained for the Colombian portion; the company will obtain the road right-of-way permit for the Panama portion.
The location of the cable, which has already been installed from Santiago de Tolú to the Isla de San Andrés was selected in such a way to avoid crossing any national parks, in particular the Parque Nacional Natural Corales del Rosario y San Bernardo. However, as the cable is located approximately 2.5 km from the park and given that the entire Archipelago of San Andrés, Providencia; and Santa Catalina were declared a Biosphere Reserve of Man and the Biosphere (Programa del Hombre y la Biosfera, MAB) UNESCO, a detailed environmental management plan was developed for the project. Not only did the local environmental authorities (Coralina) review and approve the environmental management plan presented, making detailed requirements as a condition to the approval, but they also conducted various visits to closely monitor the laying of the cable and have been very involved in ensuring there was no negative impacts on the coral. As requested by Coralina, the company has been carrying out studies and monitoring the biotic and abiotic environment every six months during the construction and operation phases and it has not detected any negative impacts. Continuous monitoring and reporting will also be required by the IIC.
Measures are also in place to train staff about vulnerable species in the area and they are prohibited from catching any species in the project area, given that many of them (mainly in the case of the Colombian section) are vulnerable due to over exploitation and deterioration of their habitats. These include species such as the Cangrejo Negro and Caracol Pala. Contractors will also be required to implement additional measures, such as taking particular care with heavy equipment and vehicles from April until June, which are migration months for the Cangrejo Negro. An underwater survey was also carried out to relocate Caracol Pala to areas further away from the cable location.
As stated in the environmental impact assessment (category I) document of the Panamanian section of the fiber optic cable, the cable in Panamanian waters will not go through any protected areas or sensitive habitats.
Occupational Health and Safety: Alcatel will provide local staff in charge of maintaining the cable with training and equipment in order to ensure that cable maintenance and inspection is done in accordance with international best practices. The proper protective equipment will be provided.
Waste Management: Minimal waste is generated during the cable installation process. It primarily consists of domestic waste generated during the construction and cable installation process, such as waste food, paper and plastic products, as well as some construction waste generated primarily as part of the construction of the three cable stations. Alcatel–Lucent sea vessels will ensure that their waste disposal practices are in accordance with MARPOL and IMO requirements. All waste will be appropriately classified, segregated, and disposed of in authorized landfills. In addition, any waste dirt and rocks excavated during the process of terrestrial installation of the cable on land will be separated and reused as fill, as aggregate for concrete, or reburied once the trenches are covered.
Labor: EIA and its contractors will adhere to the local labor requirements, as well as those required by the IIC.
Community Relations: According to the EMP, the company has developed a community relations program, which involved placing offices in Colombia to inform the community about the project and receive inquires or complaints, as well as to address them appropriately. In addition, informational material has been disseminated prior to the cable to inform about possible traffic (particularly during terrestrial laying of the cable). In the case of the Colombian portion of the cable, which has already been installed, tourism operators, divers and fishermen in the area were informed by the company and IT International prior to laying the cable. Similarly, this will be carried out in Panama prior to installation of the cable. In Colombia, the company has also provided the residents of Shooner Bight (in San Andres) with the construction of a public internet center.
Monitoring and Reporting: EIA is committed to implementing the necessary mitigation measures included in the Environmental Management Plans developed for the Colombian and Panamanian portions of the cable, as well as the Environmental and Social Action Plan (ESAP) to be developed in conjunction with the IIC to ensure compliance with the IIC’s environmental, labor and workplace health and safety requirements. An annual environmental monitoring report shall be submitted to the IIC on the implementation status of the ESAP.