Divali Nagar has a come a long way in its 30-year history.
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Petrotrin to oyster vendors: Go and pick up some other trade
Still reeling from the effects of last December’s oil spill, members of the Oyster Conch Shrimp and Mussel Association (OCSM) are now contemplating legal action against Petrotrin over loss of income owing to the damage done to the mangroves. The group visited the T&T Guardian’s south bureau last Thursday bearing a bucket of dead oysters and oil-covered mangrove roots. They called on Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar to intervene, saying they plan to take their protest to Petrotrin’s administration building in Point-a-Pierre.
Group president Asha Sylvan said Petrotrin’s head of corporate social responsibility, George Commissiong, had given them the all-clear to resume the harvesting in the mangroves last month, but said there was nothing alive for them to reap when they went as the area was still feeling the effects of the oil spill.
She said: “On April 24 I went to collect an agreement in Petrotrin and Mr George Commissiong told me this is the final payment and that we could begin to harvest our oysters again. We went down to the mangroves on April 25, my group and I, in Aripero, and there was oil stuck to the roots and all the oysters were dead.
“When we told Petrotrin what we saw, they told us tidal washing will take care of that, but that might take three years. We, as the oyster vendors, have been severely affected and the money that Petrotrin gave us is less than what we were making before the oil spill. “Petrotrin told us to go and pick up some other trade. But this is what we grow up in, this is our livelihood, this is what we know.”
Sylvan explained that Petrotrin made four payments between January and April, but excluded payment for public holidays and Sundays when they would make their highest profits. Petrotrin has dished out over $450,000 in compensation to 14 vendors, but the group said life in the mangroves will take years to repopulate.
Loss of a livelihood
Oyster harvester Dhanraj Goolcharan said the oil has clogged the roots of the mangroves, preventing them from absorbing water. He said the leaves on the trees in the mangrove are also turning yellow and dropping, but Petrotrin is now refusing to take responsibility for the environmental disaster. “When we took it back to Petrotrin they said the mangroves belong to the country and they can’t compensate us for it because it is the Government’s land,” he said.
“This company called Petrotrin is a million-dollar company and they can’t dump their waste in the mangrove where we are surviving and still they have their jobs. “We have families to mind like everybody else. Look at the position they put us in, my children have to go to school. “What will my children grow up to be? We are working to make sure our children go to school, but they can only go to school for three days in the week because I have no money to pay for transport.”
He added, “My Prime Minister said the poor people will rise, but I can’t see this happening when this million-dollar company is dumping their waste here. I am afraid my children will never be able to get a proper job. I am trying to provide for my children so they can get a proper job and not be low-grade people like me. I never went to school and right now I am in my forties.
“I have made up my mind to go in front of Petrotrin with my three children and a bucket of oysters if have to reach to that. I can’t mind my children, because this big company has dumped on my livelihood,” Goolcharan said.