Noble: With all the wealth T&T generated, why were there only broken promises for Beetham?

“[…] The last government never did anything like this (the Clean-up and Beautify Trinidad campaign). This is a great opportunity for the residents and the surroundings.

“Beetham Gardens was plagued with many health hazards, especially affecting children: the stagnant drains, the mosquitoes, the flies, the non-collection of garbage on time and lots more problems…” Onika Mc Carthy, Beetham Gardens resident.

Beetham Gardens is a troubled community in east Port of Spain.

The problems of Beetham Gardens are many. They have been around for decades. The original Shanty Town location was further west, closer to the Overpass and the Central Market’s present location.

The current location was previously swampy land. It was flat land on which the water from the hills rested. This area is now effectively sandwiched between the Priority Bus Route on the north and the Beetham Highway on the south.

The quality of housing improved as the area moved further east. In an earlier period, the Housing Development Corporation (HDC) laid out a grid-like road plan and began replacing the barrack-type housing with individual homes. However, barracks are still on the eastern side of Phases 3 and 4.

The Beetham dump.
Photo: Sasha Blood/ Trinidad Guardian

The infamous Beetham Dump, which spews toxic fumes daily, lies on the south side.

In 2012, the new People’s Partnership Government built two apartment buildings in Phase 4. Prime Minister Mrs Kamla Persad Bissessar, along with Housing Minister Dr Roodal Moonilal, Social Development Minister Dr Glenn Ramadharsingh, Senator James Lambert and HDC CEO Jearlean John, were present.

She declared a new name for the area. It should be called Hope’s Yard instead of its traditional name, Hell Yard.

A barrack building was demolished as proof that more buildings were to come. Today, the site remains bare. The dark, gloomy barracks persist in the area as home for many.

An armed policeman is alert in Beetham Gardens.

In 2024, the ground was broken to erect new apartments on the north side of the Eastern Main Road. Who will get those? When we consider all the wealth our country generated in the last two decades, how is it that there is none for the residents of Beetham Gardens?

This year, we saw the flooding in the Beetham Gardens. We witnessed raw sewage in the drains and in the homes close by. This failure is not a new problem.

In times past, the residents helped themselves by lifting the manhole covers to release the floodwaters. These actions create another problem since the sewerage system is not built to handle the peak flow of water.

Photo: A WASA employee at work.
(via WASA)

The Water and Sewerage Authority alleged that demolishing the housing in Phase 4 compromised the entire system. Apparently, the sewage collection pipeline was compromised by the demolition. The end cap was dislodged, contributing to the flooding.

In 2022, some residents took the diesel intended for the pumps on the western side of the Gardens. This action shut down the pumps.

The result? The water and raw sewage flowed into the streets.

A sinkhole in Beetham Gardens.
(via CNC3)

The pain continues. According to the Beetham Gardens Community Council president Joel Lee: “This has been ongoing for years. There’s a burst sewer line below the drain, carrying water from El Dorado, Mount Hope Hospital, passing through Beetham Gardens to the landfill.

“WASA has been aware of this for years, plus sending engineers. Several spots are caving in, causing sewer water to back up into homes and drains.”

The situation is worsened because uncollected garbage finds its way into the sewer system. The issues keep cascading, and the quality of life deteriorates.

Angry Beetham residents chase MP Fitzgerald Hinds during flooding in 2018.

There is a company called the East Port of Spain Development Company Ltd. One would imagine that its mission is to execute projects that would make a difference in the lives of the residents. That has not happened.

No political mandate for developmental work exists, and the lack of resources hobbles any imagination. Money is being spent, but life remains miserable.

A little-noted fact is the statement by a parent: “My children have to visit the clinic regularly to be checked up.”

An Aedes Albopictus mosquito.

Living in these conditions has consequences for the health of the residents. Apart from the understandable effect of open sewage in the drains, the lack of proper drainage increases the mosquito population. This creates the conditions for mosquito-borne diseases.

Other chronic non-communicable diseases, such as diabetes and HIV, lay unseen until it is too late. The health facilities in the region are besieged with problems that have become critical rather than treating them at the time of infection.

It is not uncommon to have residents grappling with strokes, unwanted pregnancies or poor post-partum care. These challenges set off other trials for the family.

Residents block the street with debris during a protest in Beetham.

Do our politicians of any stripe care? What is the grand vision for Laventille, or, specifically, Beetham Gardens?

Lest we believe that Beetham Gardens is unique, let us not forget the conditions under which Allon Ramdial lived when he was washed away into the Ortoire River.

He did not even have a birth certificate. Distress is a constant companion for many women and their children.

Three-year-old Allon Ramdial was found washed ashore near the mouth of the Ortoire River in Mayaro on 12 December 2022.
He was never registered at birth and had no birth certificate.

This sad story is repeated in many corners of our country. We are feeding discord and anti-social behaviour. It is far more cost-effective to tackle these problems than to try to contain the fallout.

But our politicians wish to confound us with big, shiny dreams. They talk in billions but cannot find a little kakada for the hungry souls.

They want to build tall structures and pretend to be men of the people, but they cannot bring our strugglers out of poverty. They boast about their programmes and the need for education, but some of our schools are starved of resources.

Trinidad and Tobago Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley (left) and Opposition Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar SC at the funeral of late South Africa president Nelson Mandela.
Their political roles were reversed at the time.
(Copyright Power102fm)

Are we for real? For those who believe that wealth trickles down and will solve these ills, let me assure you that it does not. What trickles down is less than what is in the East Dry River on a sunny day.

We must do better.

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