JESSE RAMDEO

A few meters away from Bannister’s home is a broken three-inch Water and Sewerage Authority main which has been taunting community members for nearly six years.

The gaping leak has added to the woes by reducing the already elusive pipe-borne water pressure considerably.

WASA officials have often pointed to ageing infrastructure as the cause for leakage across the country, but Serreneau Road residents question whether the blind eye being turned to their calls for the broken line to be fixed have been deliberate.

One resident who was employed at WASA for nearly three decades believes contractors continue to drag their feet when conducting repair works at the cost of taxpayers.

The perception was validated by the findings of the subcommittee report which revealed that between 2016-2020 the authority racked up an overtime bill to the tune of nearly half a billion dollars.

Public Utilities Minister Marvin Gonzales has described it as a “scandalous and shameful state of affairs.”

Across the length and breadth of the 40 kilometres separating Belmont and Brickfield Village in central Trinidad are dozens of communities, with hundreds of residents, whose water worries can be painfully summed up in the plight of Parmanand and Gaitri Harrylal.

Positioned at the front of the grandparents’ home is a recently constructed box cart.

It has been their latest hope of ending their decades’ long despair without water – after village council meetings, letters and phone calls begging for connection have all failed.

Parmanand, 54, said the box cart has been his family’s only saving grace.

“I working construction, things hard, when I reach home in the evening me and my wife have to pull this down the road for about twenty minutes by a relative to full up drums and pull it back up the road. Right now I have a pinched nerve in my shoulder. Why people have to still go through this?”

Around the family’s home are tanks, barrels, buckets and containers scattered to catch any rainwater which, to them, is treasured more than gold.

Gaitri, 52, said while they have paid for a WASA connection and taken every legal step to acquire water, it has all amounted to nought, but not for WASA, whom she stated, still issues a bill to them.

“We have no water but getting billed, they charging us the domestic rate, what day the bill came $1,500, how we paying that?”

As he recounted some harrowing memories as a result of dry taps, Pramanand said just to minimize the ordeal, his family has had to fork out over ten thousand dollars to purchase truck borne water over the last two decades.

However, it has now become a matter of life or death as they are unable to properly adhere to the COVID-19 protocols.

“Right now I have a piece of soap and water in the bathroom there, but best we go back to the old-time days with outhouses because we don’t have no water to properly wash our hands, flush toilets and sanitise.”

Gaitri, who continues to pray for a miracle, said living without water is painful in more ways than one.

“We does have to take this box cart to go for water to cook, sometimes all 8 or 9 in the night I now cooking dinner to eat. We fasting from salt, so by 6 o’clock we supposed to done eat but with the situation that cannot happen.”

The family said the only thing that hurts more than their battered bodies caused by “toting water” for miles has been the authority’s silence and apparent disdain towards them.

“Look I call asking WASA for water, I told them ‘we have no supply and if we could get?’ The woman told me I have $1100 in arrears and I have to square off that before anything. I said if we don’t have jobs and we cannot pay what else could we do, because even when we do pay we don’t get the water.”

According to Harrylal, another option may be to hack at the ground with a shovel to dig a well, just to help them overcome their routine hardships without water.

(Read more tomorrow.)