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.