RADHICA DE SILVA
Earthquake displaced farmers from Los Iros are begging the Minister of Agriculture Clarence Rambharat to make good on his promise to relocate them.
Its been almost a month since 100 acres of arable farmlands were destroyed in the 6.9 magnitude earthquake.
Since then farmers have been unable to sow or harvest their crops.
Nobbie Mathura, who cultivates five areas, said it breaks his heart to see fields of peppers and other crops go to waste.
"I am extremely disappointed and depressed because time is passing and nothing is being done to relocate us in a timely manner," he said.
Mathura said when Rambharat visited on August 23, he assured that all productive farmers would be relocated as soon as possible. However, Mathura said engineers from the ministry are now saying that he cannot be relocated because he does not have a lease to the land.
"I have peppers to pick. That crop was supposed to last over a six-month period but since the ponds dried up after the earthquake the fields are drying," Mathura added.
He called on Rambharat to organise to have the ponds dug once more to save what was left of their agricultural estates.
Los Iros Hillview Farmers' Association president Reshinand Ramraj said he was also hoping the relocation process could be done quickly.
"We are just waiting on the ministry and no one has told us anything. They repaired the road and work is ongoing right now but we are still waiting to see what will happen. Farmers are really suffering. We are not satisfied," Ramraj said.
He also expressed hope that the farmers will be compensated.
"If we can get back some kind of assistance to get back on our feet we will be able to begin cultivating soon," Ramraj added.
Contacted yesterday, Minister Rambharat said the process was taking longer than anticipated and he could not give a date as to when the relocation will occur.
"The ministry’s engineering team has been in Los Iros since the earthquake. They are working on the issues. They are not simple issues," he said.
Asked whether it was possible to have the ponds fixed, Rambharat said, "The farmers are requesting assistance to prepare the lands they are currently occupying. One person is on 25 acres of forest reserve illegally. Before we do anything we have to determine the geological issues in continuing to operate on that site; the engineering works that are required; and the relocation options."
He said seismologists and geologists were working with the ministry's engineering team.
"Our engineers are down there working with them and providing support," Rambharat added.