In November 2022, part of the Manzanilla-Mayaro road—the once scenic route along the east coast “through the coconuts”—collapsed. Part of it reportedly collapsed before, in 2014.
In that same year, a commentary by Rajiv Jalim, described as a climate change advocate from Trinidad and Tobago, analysed coastal erosion on that coast in a United Nations Development Programme.
The Jalim commentary stated that “long-term strategies should go beyond revetment (fortification) and seawall repairs and consider policy support, planning strategies and contingency mapping”. It asserted that public-private partnership is required “to deal with coastal management in a sustainable manner”.
In a column published 17 years ago, in May 2006, I first described the brutish way the authorities were going about coastal erosion works—coconut trees being “destroyed by bulldozers and brutes, felling every tree in their path” while putting down some miles of seawall and fortification.
Replacement trees, never planted, would have been fully grown by now.
Before I continue on the mismanagement and what is now clearly the abandonment of Manzanilla, let me celebrate my joy at attending The National Invitational Championships in gymnastics (the Nationals) two Saturdays ago, driven by my support of Thema Williams.
Thema is now a university graduate, businessperson, proprietor of a full scale gym and a gymnastics coach. My connection with Thema and the vindication she received from the high court is well-known.
She had gymnasts competing in the Nationals, but her athletes were unattached as her club, the Thema Williams Athletic Academy (TWAA), had not been registered four weeks before the championships—but the forward march of TWAA is well set.
My joy at the gymnastics event, which was a well-run one, is linked to the Pan in the 21st Century event tonight because a significant cadre of highly disciplined youngsters will participate, just as they did at the gymnastics, competing with concentration punctuated with smiles and, in some cases pizzazz.
These and many others are the youth likely to be harmed by the indifference of our rulers to violent crime and the related bad socio-economic conditions—for whom gangs become ‘family’ to the hurt and abused children who stagnate in such conditions.
In order to be in Port-of-Spain to attend the gymnastics, I gave up going to beloved Mayaro for full moon, later that Saturday. Time would not have been a problem but for the fact that the Ministry of Works has not regularly maintained the temporary hard track, which it had a contractor put down in Manzanilla and which cannot realistically be called a road.
It is as brutish a fix as the coastal erosion works that I described above.
Going to Mayaro in the late afternoon was not an attractive proposition. The drive takes extra time and is subject to the vehicle mash up and bone-shaking character of the hard track. Most discouragingly, what if darkness ketch we outside?!
Many citizens fear that travelling on any road in the pall of darkness increases the risk of reaching under a funeral pall. Shortly before writing this column, murder number 248 had occurred around 7pm on the Mafeking side of Mayaro village.
However, I went to Mayaro for full moon in May and was greatly moved by the contrast of bright moonlight and grim misery. The sight of the devastation and isolation of the properties along the Manzanilla stretch would upset any reasonably empathetic person. That is a category to which our rulers do not belong.
Whatever their post-flood state, there was no longer reasonable vehicular access to these properties. The misery of living there was captured in a Trinidad Express newspaper article two weeks ago headlined: ‘The Woman who Refused to Leave’.
Carol Moller, aged 80, has stayed in her property in an attempt to keep her livestock intact. She was quoted as saying: “I am pleading with the authorities to please do something. You have your reports and taken enough pictures, please do something.”
I ask: Can someone tell us how the much touted local government reform will reverse the indifference and lack of caring and relieve the abandonment of Manzanilla and the severe knock-on consequences for Mayaro?