Cows have been dying in the pastures of Woodland and Debe as hundreds of acres of prized pastures become contaminated by the intrusion of saltwater in the Oropouche Drainage Basin.

Most of the flood gates which drain the Oropouche Basin have broken down and despite a $100 million flood alleviation, the gates at Tulsa Trace, the Seven-Gate at St John’s Trace, Avocat and the 14-gate in Woodland remain down.

Many of the pumps which protect arable lands are malfunctioning and the recent dredging of rivers by the Ministry of Works to prevent floods have acted as a double-edged sword allowing the seawater to come further inland during high tide.

During an interview, livestock owner Seepersad Harrylal said the saltwater intrusion has moved inland all the way to Barrackpore.

He said four of his animals have already died and one seems on the brink of death.

With 30 animals still out in the pastures, Harrylal said he was desperately trying to bring them to safe ground.

“We noticed the animals were looking sick but it was only when we investigated we realized they were drinking the salt water,” Harrylal said. He noted that vast acreages of agricultural lands have already been destroyed by the saltwater and now the prized grazing grounds were also being destroyed.

“We are making an appeal to the Minister of Works to fix the flood gates as a matter of urgency. We are losing our livelihood. We have no choice but to sell our animals,” Harrylal added.

He also said, “This is the first time I am seeing so much saltwater. The whole place is flooded with saltwater.”

Another farmer named Kevin said he was desperately trying to remove his animals from the Woodland Pastures.

“We are taking them to another spot in Penal. We cannot keep them here. Before any more of them die we are trying to move them,” he said.

Cancer patient Monica Harrylal said she lost a bull and a heifer.

“I noticed that they were sick and then they fell over and died. We are very sure that it is the saltwater which is killing them. The saltwater is now all through the lands. As soon as the tide changes it comes back up. We need our gates fixed and compensation for our losses. I am a cancer patient and I have to go through a lot,” she added.

Meanwhile, president of the South Oropouche Riverine Flood Action group Edward Moodie said he tasted the water and found it to be very salty.

“This is the worse we have experienced. The river is tidal and it goes right up to the wet pastures that farmers use. When the animals drink it, the saltwater destroys their stomach lining and they will die in a few days,” he said.

He also said people have been exploiting the livestock farmers by offering them a pittance for their animals.

“We are very concerned because hundreds of acres of land stretching from St Johns Trace to Rahamut Trace are now contaminated. Saltwater has reached as far as Barrackpore. The site off Ackaloo Trace in Pluck Road is worse affected,” he said.

Minister of Works Rohan Sinanan was attending an event when Guardian called and said he could not immediately comment.