RADHICA DE SILVA
On the hills of Gasparillo in south Trinidad lies a community called Springland where bountiful supplies of fresh spring water cascade downhill.
However, since 2011, bad roads and landslips have transformed the community into a dumping ground.
Because of landslips, garbage trucks no longer enter the area. Some residents are forced to walk for 500 metres to dump waste in a communal dumpster on Caratal Road, set up by the Couva Tabaquite/Talparo Regional Corporation.
Many frail residents who cannot make the trek to the dumpster, are forced to burn their rubbish near their homes.
When the Guardian visited the area, stacks of glass bottles and other non-flammable waste were seen at the side of residents' homes. The hillsides were also littered with garbage.
In an interview resident Patricia Williams said a few short years ago, people took daily baths in the natural spring water ponds while breathing in the clean air coming from the pristine surroundings. Now with frequent dumping and pollution, Williams said this was no longer possible.
Williams said she was disheartened by the conditions of her beloved community. "Back in the day, this area was so beautiful. We still have clean air but life is very hard because of the road conditions."
She explained that the Upper San Fabien Road was connected to the Caratal Road circular but after the landslip occurred, the community became splintered.
Within a few months, 17 families had to be relocated, most of whom went to Golconda. The road was never fixed and the concrete homes crumbled over time.
Pensioner Philip Green, 71, said his closest neighbours left the community after the landslip claimed the road.
"I did not leave the village. I was not directly affected by the landslip but many of my good neighbours were relocated. The place was never the same. This community was destroyed because of that landslip," Green said. He explained that taxis also stopped coming into the area and outsiders began moving in.
Destruction of Agriculture
Ann Marie Braxton, whose great-grandfather Tony Fabien named the village, said agriculture was the mainstay in years gone by. She said it was now difficult to get agricultural produce out of the fields because of the road conditions.
"This has led many people to abandon their agricultural estates. Young people never went into agriculture even though the lands are very fertile," Braxton said.
Braxton's mother Lilian Braxton who is 93 years old, peeped out of her front window while the Guardian crew conducted interviews. Braxton said Lilian was fully cognitive and was still able to do chores around the house. She said the crisp clean air and the pristine surroundings gave most residents long life.
"This was a village where we looked after each other. The children all went to Caratal RC and they had respect for their elders. Now so many people have moved out and we do not know many who now live here," she said.
Braxton said her great-grandfather came from Nigeria and after getting possession of vast acreages, he divided it up among families, many of whom still live in Springland today.
Neil Modeste who lives with his mother Wendy Modeste on the edge of the 2011 landslip, said the rural community has been neglected by politicians.
"People feel that we are not people too because we live in the back here but we pay taxes like everyone else. This was one of the nice villages in the South but bad roads and landslips have mashed up our community life. People cannot find comfort here, not when you have to walk into the street for a mile with your groceries or walk for half a mile to dump your garbage," Neil said.
He added that because of the pristine surroundings many villagers opted to face the hardships and stay in the village. Modeste said the spring which gave Springland its name is no longer a therapeutic meeting point for happy villagers.
"The pollution has destroyed this place. The pond is always murky and a few years ago one of the neighbours Kwame Hinds drowned in the pond. People hardly go there now but I remember it as a happy part of my childhood," Neil said.
The residents said landslips are continuing to develop over the hilly road. On Tuesday, following heavy rains, part of the road caved in causing an electricity pole and a tree to fall on top of the house.
Robert Stroud said they have reported the continuous landslips to their MP Dr Suruj Rambachan but cries have fallen on deaf ears.
MP Rambachan responds
However, Rambachan said the landslips at San Fabien were just a few occurring in his constituency.
"It is not fair for them to say help is not forthcoming. We have been appealing to the Minister of Works for help because the Regional Corporation cannot handle the extensive land slippage," Rambachan said.
He added that in Tortuga four houses were in danger of collapse and were being undermined due to excessive water coming from the road.
"At Samlalsingh Trace a whole hill is slipping down and pushing the house. In Caratal and Parforce Roads we have landslips. There are also three landslips at Caratal Extension Number One and Mappipire Road where the river is encroaching on the road. In Poona Road, there is a depression about eight feet deep," Rambachan said. He added that the Ministry must assist with fixing the landslips and preserving community life.
Chairman of the Couva/Tabaquite/Talparo Regional Corporation Henry Awong said he was familiar with the concerns of the villagers. Awong said the Corporation will provide temporary relief for the landslips until a permanent solution is found.