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Trinidad man, Phagoo Dan, finds his own water, power

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Phagoo Dan is surviving without as WASA supply. Photo: Sandhya Santoo

(TRINIDAD EXPRESS) While many across the country thirst for water during a scorching dry season, one man living in the South Oropouche lagoon has found a way to beat the system and sustain his family.

Phagoo Dan, 61, is a simple man born to a poor family.

After marriage, he took his bride to live in the lagoon, where they made a life.

There, he would toil on the lands and earned a living by farming and rearing cattle and livestock. After the death of his wife some eight years ago, this father of four, now earns a living by selling milk and dahee (homemade yogurt) to villagers.

Over the years Dan has tried numerous ways to obtain a water and power supply for his family. He was a squatter, eventually gaining a certificate of comfort, but it was not enough. He was told that no water or power lines were close to his home.

So Dan has constructed his new home is such a way that when it rains, the gutters are able to capture the water in tanks and barrels. The water is what Dan and his family uses to bathe, cook and wash clothes.

When his water supply is depleted he visits the neighbouring villagers searching for a water pipe stand or someone willing to share a barrel or two with him.

“When you call it takes more than two weeks for them (WASA or the regional corporation) to send a truck. If we don’t have a vehicle, what we would do, starve? So every time we need water, we would go and bring and we live like that all our lives,” he said.

Dan said years ago he purchased a small solar panel kit to power his home. For at least eight hours of the day, the family has “electricity”. This, he said he is able to use a washing machine instead of a washing tub making life easier. He also has a mobile lighting tower with a generator. Before that, he used flambeaux and candles to light his home. Dan said if someone would give him the proper guidance for an improved solar panel system for his home, he would be willing to save and purchase it.

However, the location of Dan’s home does not come without a threat. He has the lost livestock over the years at the hands of thieves, and it has forced him to fence his property and have guard dogs.

Dan recalled one late afternoon, a woman came out of her vehicle and walked onto his property to steal a duck. Fearing for his safety and that of his family as the woman was not alone, Dan said he let her have the bird. He said he also lost three cattle last year to thieves.

Phagoo Dan’s land in Woodland. Photo: Sandhya Santoo

Dan’s story is not unfamiliar to many in south Trinidad. His plight of not having water is something that thousands of residents within the Penal/Debe electoral districts are plagued with, says the Penal/ Debe Regional Corporation chairman Dr Allen Sammy.

Sammy said the corporation’s request for additional is not yet been granted by the Ministry of Local Government.

He said he is concerned about the situation as the number of daily requests from members of the public continue.

“There has been no response from the Ministry of Local Government for additional funding for water trucking. We applied for $265,000 for an additional 18 days to service 612 houses. Meanwhile, the daily requests for water continue unchanged,” he said.

Sammy had previously said there was a water crisis within the districts and that the corporation’s water fund has been almost depleted.

On April 26, the Water and Sewerage Authority (WASA) officials met with Sammy to discuss the water situation. However, Sammy said nothing was done to alleviate the present condition.

“All they did subsequently was (WASA) published a delivery schedule for the country. No promise were made and we remain optimistic that water will be delivered per schedule,” he said.

Chairman of the Couva/Tabaquite/Talparo Regional Corporation Henry Awong said there has been little improvement to the water crisis the electoral districts.

However, he said there are some areas where residents have not received a supply.

“Yes, we have seen a bit of improvement as some have not seen water for months in some places, however, they got a supply of water last week. I have been in contact with WASA. I will be monitoring the revised schedule of WASA and that they are holding to that,” he said.

Despite public criticism of water distribution discrimination, WASA maintained that this is not the case and that the country is experiencing one of the harshest dry seasons in recent years which has impacted the water production.

WASA has implemented a water hose ban which remains in effect, as well as the water schedule.

Phagoo Dan’s home

Here are some helpful conservation tips from WASA:

• Don’t leave the tap running while washing dishes; fill your kitchen sink instead.

• Use a broom instead of the hose to clean your driveway.

• Don’t defrost foods with running water. Place frozen items in the refrigerator overnight or use the defrost setting on the microwave.

• Shorten your showers to between 3 to 5 minutes.

• Turn off the water while you brush your teeth.

• Use less soap when washing and cleaning, since more soap requires more water to rinse.

• Fix leaking faucets and plumbing. A small drip from a faucet can waste as much as 20 gallons of water a day.

• When using your washing machine, wash only full loads.

• Use laundry rinse water to wet plants.

• Use a bucket instead of a hose to wash your car.

• Repair leaking toilets. Add some food colouring to the water in the tank; if colour appears in the bowl without flushing, you have a leak.

• Water plants during early morning hours or at night, when temperatures are cooler. This reduces evaporation.

• Install float valves in your water tanks or ensure that existing valves are working properly. Float valves shut off the water supply to the tank when it is full, preventing wastage.

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