Foul and unfair

Public Utilities Minister Marvin Gonzales - Angelo Marcelle
Public Utilities Minister Marvin Gonzales - Angelo Marcelle

SINCE AUGUST, Beetham Gardens residents have been waiting to breathe easy.

In that month a small sinkhole caused by a ruptured sewer formed on Main Street. This newspaper reported on the matter in September as the sinkhole grew and filled with effluent, flowing onto the road and into nearby houses.

A month later, the Water and Sewage Authority (WASA) began repair work.

But those repairs turned out to be complicated. The process lingered for weeks, in stops and starts, as the end of the year approached.

WASA promised a solution by December. The Minister of Public Utilities promised things would be done by the end of January. The holidays – Divali, Christmas, New Year’s – came and went.

Residents say work seemed to stop completely in December. On Monday, those residents set fire to debris along the Beetham Highway.

In stark contrast to the length of time it has taken the State to address their plight, authorities were quick to reach the scene. Police and firemen cleared the highway and early-morning traffic resumed unabated.

On learning the reason for the protest, even some of those affected by the traffic congestion sympathised with those who have endured this situation for months.

In an interview with Newsday on Monday, WASA CEO Ravindra Nanga denied the authority had been inefficient.

“It’s not simple,” Mr Nanga said of the required repair work. “It is beyond WASA’s control.”

In the same breath, the CEO apologised for the delay.

And hours after the residents’ protest, repair work that had appeared to come to a standstill resumed.

Why did it take a protest for work to recommence? WASA says it was a coincidence. Materials arrived on Monday.

Whatever the complexity of the situation, it is WASA’s job to understand and anticipate the nature of the infrastructure it is working with. It is WASA’s job to allocate or procure the resources needed to effect speedy repairs. It is also WASA’s job to maintain a relationship with the communities affected by its operations.

In this instance, it faltered on all counts.

Worse, the WASA CEO’s advice on Monday to residents to be patient was not only insensitive, but also incredible, given that sewage has been literally flowing through people’s yards.

Other officials, too, have shown remarkable ineptitude.

Public Utilities Minister Marvin Gonzales was quoted as saying “large volumes” of sewer water had affected the special pumps put in place to prevent spillage. He was also quoted as expressing surprise that residents were angry, given the timeline he had outlined last year during site visits.

What’s surprising is that more has not been done to help.

Laventille West MP Fitzgerald Hinds, meanwhile, also called for patience, saying the project is massive.

Perhaps these officials should take their cue from the Beetham residents, who have been bearing the brunt of this foul stench with their mouths closed.


"Foul and unfair"

More in this section