A resident points to stagnant water in a drain than runs from Andre Street alongside the Eastern Main Road in Sangre Grande.

The town of Sangre Grande, the hub for shoppers from remote communities on the outskirts like Matelot, Grande Reviere, Sans Souci, Toco, among others, is now losing its prestige for being well kept with a healthy environment. Instead, Sangre Grande is fast attracting the label of being one of the dirtiest towns in the country.

Residents, visitors and taxi drivers have been complaining about the poor state of the town centre which is exposing adults and children to illnesses as drains are clogged and mosquitoes breed in stagnant water. The town has become a haven for flies and rodents, and blood from a chicken depot runs into the main drain along the Eastern Main Road where businesses are located, creating an unbearable stench.

A sinkhole along the Eastern Main Road, at the front of Republic Bank, caused by a leaking pipe, is a source of inconvenience to motorists who swerve away so that they do not damage their vehicles while driving into the hole. The hole is creating a hazard as drivers can crash into oncoming vehicles. Residents want this fixed as trucks traversing the road are causing it to widen.

In addition, they are calling for the removal of vagrants whose numbers have been increasing daily. The homeless can be seen stretched out along the sidewalk in front of business places during the day and at night.

Peter Raymond told Guardian Media that the two public convenience buildings–one at Andre Street and the other at Railway Road–which houses toilets and sinks for washing hands have been closed by the Sangre Grande Regional Corporation for some time and remain in a deplorable state. The facility is used by taxi drivers at the nearby stands, streetside vendors, residents and visitors.

There are four taxi stands in the vicinity of the Railway Road Public Convenience and no explanation has been given to the approximately 100 drivers who ply their vehicles for hire from Sangre Grande to Arima, Port-of-Spain, Mayaro and Toco/Matelot.

Complaints to the corporation especially by taxi drivers and other agencies for improvement have fallen on deaf ears. They are questioning if the Regional Corporation and health authorities have turned a blind eye to the problems that exist.

Louis Hernandez, who represents the Mayaro taxi drivers, said male drivers are forced to urinate on the walls and use the toilet of food outlets and bars a distance away, but with the COVID-19 health restrictions in effect, this makes it difficult for them to gain access to these facilities.

“We are crying out for help as we provide an essential service to the travelling public. We ply our service from as early as 4 am and as late as 10 pm and we believe that priority should be given to us as well as members of the public.”

One driver, Ali said at the corner of Andre Street and Eastern Main Road there is stagnant water that has been settling for quite a while, breeding mosquitoes and giving off a putrid smell. Along the Cunapo Southern Main Road, drivers on the Biche and Coalmine Taxi Stands and people waiting for transportation endure the foul smell emanating from a drain with stagnant water where blood from a nearby chicken depot flows. The taxi drivers told Guardian Media parts of the area are always slippery, creating a hazard for passengers boarding the taxis who can slip and fall. Ramtahal, a taxi driver, said while many passengers fell, luckily there were no serious injuries. “We have to advise passengers to use the left side of the vehicle to enter as this part of the road is not that slippery.”

The taxi drivers and members of the public are calling on the relevant authorities to have these problems addressed in 2022 and not wait for a health outbreak in addition to the present COVID-19 pandemic.

“This certainly could be avoided, but it takes the decision of members of Sangre Grande Regional Corporation and other agencies,” one concerned driver added.

Businessman Ricardo Mohammed is hoping that the councillors push for monies in this fiscal year to have these burning problems, especially the reopening of the two public conveniences addressed in 2022. He also looks forward to the removal of the vagrants from the streets as Sangre Grande is the hub of shopping further East. “We want it to be restored to a healthy environment, making all comfortable when they come to Sangre Grande to shop and for other business. We are looking for a better Sangre Grande and that’s the wish of all, the taxi drivers, residents and the business community.”

Vice Chairman of Corporation: We are starved for funding

Kenwyn Phillip, Vice Chairman of Sangre Grande Regional Corporation and former head of the corporation’s Health Committee told Guardian Media that they are aware of the problem and requested at a recent meeting that portable toilets be used in the interim for drivers as well as members of the public, but this request was turned down. The reason given at that time was it will be very costly to maintain the portable toilets and the corporation is already starved for funding for such projects.

MP promises to investigate

MP for Toco/Sangre Grande Roger Munroe said these problems, which have been brought to his attention by residents, taxi drivers and business owners, fall in the hands of the Sangre Grande Regional Corporation.

He could not say if there was a lack of funds but promised to investigate.

Munroe admitted the situation has been negatively impacting residents and shows a level of disrespect to senior citizens, especially those who cannot access a public convenience as they go about their business.

The MP said, “I have to reach out to those in charge of health at the Sangre Grande Corporation to have these problems ironed out and have the public conveniences workable for the people.”