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Who cares about Maracas?

Sunday, September 30, 2018
Helen Drayton Photo by:Winston Garth Murrell

Helen Drayton

The Advertisement Regulations Act, Chapter 35:53 should be helpful to Nestle and other companies who are sponsoring benches with advertising on the Maracas Beach. These insensitive companies are not alone in contributing to the clutter and ruination of the scenic beach environment. More culpable are the authorities who are responsible for its preservation and are allowing that to happen. Who are they? Is it the Ministry of Tourism, the Regional Corporation, the County Council or all of them? And what about the responsibility of the parliamentary representative?

Perhaps Nestle should have read the Advertisement Act before responding to citizens who lamented the blatancy of the company’s bench advertisements and the shameful "ting" it described as a "water feature".

Nestle responded as follows: "At Nestlé, contributing to healthier and happier individuals stands at the fore. We believe in the upkeep and preservation of our natural landmarks and have used the benches as a form of comfort for visitors. Other than the close proximity of the water feature our brand holds no association. Further to our investigation, we have been informed that the said water feature had been removed. We thank you for voicing your concerns and are happy and willing to discuss our commitments to the environment and how we each can play our part…" Eh!

Nestle really wants us to believe that it is "contributing to our health and happiness", by sponsoring benches with their advertisements on the beach? With remarkable clumsiness, it tried to disassociate itself from the hideous water-thing quite oblivious of its corporate litter. Whoever thought that advertising on Maracas Beach or any beach is a good idea needs to reflect on the example they are setting. Observe what has happened along our highways, the Lady Young Road and every public place. Observe what has happened since the first set of beach lounge chairs appeared on the seashore about a couple of years ago. There are no controls so more operators are hustling in resulting in many chairs sprawled across the beach during peak periods and in prime spots. Who is monitoring to ensure that beachgoers who can’t afford to rent the chairs or those who want to relax on the sand get beach space?

Getting back to Nestle and its communication that seemed calculated to advance its interests regardless of consequences to the environment, it should consider that corporate social responsibility first requires adherence to the intent and spirit of the law. It is not simply discretionary philanthropic deeds like sponsoring public benches, ostensibly, for the public's convenience. There is nothing wrong with a policy of enlightened self-interest, but why not contribute to preserving our landmarks rather than helping to diminish the natural beauty of these places. How about a campaign to keep the beach clean of litter including advertising litter or better still make babies happy by promoting breastfeeding. If such socially responsible deeds would conflict with its brand, then in the least, don't do anything it wouldn't be permitted to do to Switzerland's environment. It is not the only company messing up the beach with advertising litter. The numbers are increasing.

The Advertisement Act defines "hoarding" as any structure used as an advertisement or used for exhibiting any advertisement. Clause 3: "No hoarding shall be erected and no advertisement shall be exhibited upon any hoarding or on any wall, tree, pole, fence, gate or other place in Trinidad and Tobago except in accordance" with the act. Clause 4: "In a City or Borough, the City or Borough Council and elsewhere the County Council may erect hoardings or authorise the erection..." Schedule 11 of the act identifies specific areas where advertisements are prohibited, and that schedule includes the Maracas Road and Maracas Bay. Who authorised the advertisements?

In her response to Nestle, the words of Kathryn Stollmeyer Wight are worth repeating. "Thank you, Nestle, for your rather insulting response…so fed up of the ugliness!"

Isn’t it time the relevant authorities take action against the abuse of Maracas Beach and not be complicit in the ugliness and breaking the law?


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