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Trinidad: WASA seizes more pumps

By Shaliza Hassanali

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Farmer Nanlal Jagroo points to the natural pond in Bon Air East where the farming community extract water for their crops. (Photo: SHALIZA HASSANALI)

(TRINIDAD GUARDIAN) — The Wa­ter and Sew­er­age Au­thor­i­ty (WASA) in­tends to launch an in­ves­ti­ga­tion af­ter one of its es­tate po­lice of­fi­cers al­leged­ly threat­ened to shoot a Bon Air farmer dur­ing the seizure of two wa­ter pumps and four suc­tion lines re­cent­ly.

The in­ci­dent re­port­ed­ly took place last Thurs­day at the Arou­ca farm­ing com­mu­ni­ty, days af­ter WASA con­fis­cat­ed pumps be­long­ing to Aranguez farm­ers Ish­wah Singh and Han­sraj Mooni­lal who have since tak­en le­gal ac­tion against the wa­ter au­thor­i­ty. Singh and Mooni­lal were charged with ab­stract­ing wa­ter with­out a per­mit from WASA. They are sched­uled to ap­pear be­fore a Port-of-Spain Mag­is­trate to­mor­row.

Nan­lal Ja­groo claimed three of­fi­cers swooped down on the farm­ers’ 100 acre-field in­form­ing them that they were break­ing the law by ex­tract­ing wa­ter from a near­by nat­ur­al pond.

Ja­groo said one of­fi­cer tried to up­root from the ground four suc­tion hoses, one of which be­longed to him.

On bend­ed knees, Ja­groo, 64, said he held on­to the hose plead­ing for le­nien­cy.

“That’s when one of the of­fi­cers threat­ened to shoot me. When he re­alised what he say he changed his talk…say­ing he would take me down to spend the night. I begged them to spare us as we have fam­i­lies to main­tain and loans to pay, but no one lis­tened. A lot of us were left in tears that day,” said a vis­i­bly an­noyed Ja­groo.

The fol­low­ing morn­ing, the farm­ers whose items were seized went to WASA where they ap­plied and paid $168 for a tem­po­rary wa­ter ex­trac­tion per­mit, which they are yet to re­ceive.

Four farm­ers are ex­pect­ed to be charged soon fol­low­ing the WASA crack­down in Bon Air.

“While we are await­ing the per­mits our crops are dy­ing,” said pres­i­dent of the Pro­gres­sive Bon Air East Farm­ers’ As­so­ci­a­tion Frank Ali who rep­re­sents 60 farm­ers.

Ali, who stood be­hind rows of parched and dis­coloured crops de­stroyed by the in­tense heat, said in the last few weeks farm­ers na­tion­wide have suf­fered sig­nif­i­cant loss­es due to the un­avail­abil­i­ty of wa­ter.

“With each pass­ing day, our pro­duc­tion lev­els have been de­creas­ing. It’s un­der 50 per cent right now. Many of us are un­able to main­tain our fam­i­lies and pay our loans. We are hav­ing sleep­less nights be­cause this is our liveli­hood.

“This is the worst dry sea­son we have faced in years and WASA is show­ing no mer­cy or com­pas­sion. If all the farm­ers shut down pro­duc­tion how will peo­ple eat? Food is a ne­ces­si­ty.” Ali said.

He said while farm­ers are be­ing tar­get­ed, many il­le­gal car wash busi­ness­es con­tin­ue to op­er­ate freely with­out fac­ing the full brunt of the law.

“It’s be­com­ing a po­lit­i­cal foot­ball at the ex­pense of farm­ers who have been un­der im­mense pres­sure,” Ja­groo in­ter­ject­ed.

Ali said farm­ers should have been giv­en a one-month mora­to­ri­um to ab­stract wa­ter from wa­ter­cours­es with­out a li­cense.

WASA has im­posed re­stric­tions on the use of wa­ter hoses, sprin­klers and in­sti­tut­ed a sched­uled sup­ply of wa­ter to res­i­dents, as it claims its reser­voirs were be­ing de­plet­ed by the harsh dry sea­son. WASA chair­man Rom­ney Thomas said the au­thor­i­ty had been pa­trolling the coun­try while con­cerned cit­i­zens had been call­ing in to make re­ports.

“If we find that peo­ple are breach­ing the wa­ter re­stric­tions we will treat with that very se­ri­ous­ly. We will bring charges against any­one who is found break­ing the wa­ter use re­stric­tions,” said Thomas.

So far, WASA has charged 26 peo­ple for not ad­her­ing to its wa­ter re­stric­tions, Thomas said.

In re­sponse to the al­le­ga­tions raised by Ja­groo, Thomas said he would seek to find out what took place.

“I will cer­tain­ly look in­to it,” he said.

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