IAN KEVIN RAMDHANIE
Caribbean Institute for Security
and Public Safety
Chaguanas mayor Gopaul Boodhan and councillor Lisa Holder (Enterprise North/Esmeralda) both say they are disgusted to see the level of contamination and the unsavoury stench emanating from the Ghandia River at Ragoonanan Road, Longdenville, Chaguanas. And farmers are using the polluted river water to irrigate their crops which can lead to tainted vegetables, said environmental biologist Dr Sharda Mahabir. She warned people to wash all vegetables “very clean” before consuming them.
Dr Mahabir was speaking with the media yesterday morning at a clean-up of part of the river. The Chaguanas Borough Corporation joined forces with members of the Collector Car Owners Association, the Water and Sewerage Authority (WASA) and Scotiabank to do the clean-up.
Mahabir and the clean-up team discovered that farmers in the area were using stagnant, polluted river water to irrigate plants with a system of overhead sprinklers. Mahabir said this practice was not uncommon in the farming community, and said many rivers are polluted. Mahabir advised consumers to wash vegetables thoroughly using warm, mildly soapy water: this would prevent people accidentally eating dangerous bacteria such as E. coli and fecal coliform, she said.
Mahabir, who works with the water resources division of WASA, said contaminated water was low in oxygen content, making it difficult for fish to live; such water may also contain dangerous bacteria that can introduce diseases into vegetable fields and reduce agricultural production. According to Mahabir, WASA’s adopt-a-river programme was designed to change the culture and mindset of people who see watercourses as large garbage dumps that simply take away rubbish. She said such concepts are far from the truth.
She said T&T has 59 watersheds that need protection to ensure an abundant, future fresh water supply. Mayor Boodhan appealed to people to stop using watercourses as dumping grounds, stating the corporation would soon be launching an environmental awareness programme in schools to start changing attitudes at a younger age.