Hours after a 6.1 magnitude earthquake rocked T&T, a section of the Basta Hall Main Road in Couva caved in, rupturing a water line, and triggering angry protests by residents.
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Dibe—between rocks and hard places
Those who live alongside Dibe Long Circular’s winding road (in St James) know all too well that they reside between a rocky hillside and the hard place threatened by a river. That fact is brought home to them mainly when it rains excessively and nature bluntly reminds them of its original ownership of the sloping territory when development-weakened land slips towards the Maraval river. Homes on the western left side of upper Dibe Road are anchored on the hillside. It is higher ground, many parts of which are reinforced with retaining walls. Homes on the eastern right side of the road nearer the river, are perched on the edge of the hillside.
As the hill descends, some of these homes are almost beneath road level, clinging to the slope. They also require retaining and support against slippage and are frequently in danger when the river rises. There’s no room for pavement along the narrow but well paved Dibe road and it’s often a tight squeeze when two vehicles have to pass a pedestrian. Occasional natural threat aside, however, residents of the “hot spot” area these days have less to say about the state of emergency’s effects than the lack of jobs and infrastructure for the area. And none are shy about the shadowy part of Dibe furthest up at the end of the mountain road known as “the Creek” of which area MP Colm Imbert says:
“It has its share of problems, there are hard-working honest people and there are also unemployed young men who find themselves on the wrong side of the law—a typical poor area where people are not very well off.” “I don’t go up the road at all,” was the more pointed description from several female occupants along the lower part of Dibe on Monday night. Some Creek residents, however, have the same issues to relate as their neighbours further down the road, even if they make the points more vociferously and in more colourful ways. “Jobs..... is jobs we need,” said Allan, 27, who lives further down Dibe Road. “I have a job myself but others around my age are not getting the opportunities and worse, they cut out CEPEP and URP in the area a long time now - the youths don’t have anything to turn to but it have plenty things in the area need fixing,” Allan added in a soft spoken tone.
“I’m 25 and I can’t get a job years now...... the way it going things will get drastic,” added another youth around the next corner. Wearing a blue T-shirt he is working on a laptop computer sitting at the side of the road. Cecelia, who works at TGI Friday, also makes the same appeal for the area. Cecelia doesn’t feel the impact of the SOE as much now that the curfew hours have been reduced and her shift hours are back to normal. While some residents like Cecelia say they saw their MP in the area two Sundays ago for a constituency Family Day, further down the hill some others are not interested in hearing Imbert’s name or councillor Susan Rodriguez’s. “Election come, election go—is the same thing for this part of Dibe,” said a 30-ish woman sitting with a group of others at the foot of Bois Bande Hill (They were unsure of the spelling of the name.).
About 50 houses sit atop the hillside to the left of the road and the entrance comprises few concrete steps and tightly winding dirt track carved into the hillside. “Is Gaza here.....” agrees a youth in a vest, shorts and slippers. “When rain fall, the hill bank is come down and if you see water pouring down those four five steps. My stepfather Sylvester Betaudier fell straight off the bank (of the hill) two years ago and he still has a dent in his head from the fall,” said Betaudier’s daughter. “The MP don’t bother with up here so, he feel it have too much bandit. You know how long we trying to get that little piece of roadside pave or fix! The hill will keep coming down and then houses will start moving too,” adds a bare-back man about 39 years.
Some residents are proud of the fact that the area has no water problems, but they also echo the cry for jobs and project work in the area to keep youths busy. “Human behaviour is something you can’t legislate you know, but at least if they have an opportunity to do something every, day it might make a difference,” said an older man in exercise wear walking up the hill. Judy, who sells cigarettes and canned goods from her home, said her son is in the Police Youth Club. “Counselling is really what some youths and parents in this area need. A lot of them don’t understand what they doing or how it affecting their children or how to cope with things,” Judy added. Judy’s home is across the river from a new fancy apartment development. Neighbours nearby point out the dangers of land slippage.
“That river is roar so hard when it high—it’s frightening,” said a 51 year old resident. “The MP had gotten (retaining) walls put up in some parts, some was going down, but he not in Government any more, so no funding for him to do anything. The councillor come and promise thing and we never see her again,” she added. She added, “Jack Warner and all come up here last year and it was big thing, but nothing ever fix. That was just a picture-perfect thing. He just come to pose.” “Right there,” she pointed a couple houses up. “The old lady Gertrude Henry was in the paper three weeks ago calling for a retaining wall for her property there—she just dead. She never got the wall. They can’t keep squeezing us for jobs and to fix things in the area just because we is PNM,” the woman added.