Barrackpore farmers are pleading with the State to investigate why someone has turned their farmlands into a dumpsite.
Rats now run freely and flies overrun part of the lands controlled by the Ministry of Agriculture, Land and Fisheries off Julien Trace #2 where businesses dump mounds of coconut shells after extracting the water for their products.
Even worse, the farmer who allegedly collects money to run the illegal dump placed a chain across the entrance, leading to other farmers having to carry their tools hundreds of metres into the lands.
Even when a farmer tried to use a tractor to drive past the chains, burnt coconut shells block the pathway.
Recently, one of the pick-up trucks from a coconut water company slipped into a pond, leaving it filled with dozens of shells. Farmers said it is more than five years now that they have this problem, but it is getting worse.
Despite complaints to the ministry’s sub-office in Penal, farmer Ricky Gangadhar said personnel there only visited the land once and said they would look into it.
“These people are dumping all this rubbish here, blocking up the access road leading to my land. It is causing rats, flies and corbeau here. We want this to stop, and we want the road cleaned so we can access our land. We are tired of reporting this to the ministry, even in Batchiya by the farm, and they did absolutely nothing for us.
“Many times we reported this, even last week, I called and informed them what was going on, and we have not heard anything. This causes a lot of rats; big rats like manicou run all over here. I had corn here, and when it was full, the rats climb the plants and eat a lot of my corn,” Gangadhar said.
Leroy Lowe said he had to take his chemicals, pumps and plants to his land by hand because the access road created by the ministry is blocked. The last time Lowe tried to pass with his pick-up truck, the wheel got stuck in the coconut shells, and another farmer had to haul him out using a tractor.
“It is not a nice thing at all because if we are supposed to be promoting agriculture, we cannot have one man doing this. We are trying, but people are losing money. I cannot even do anything right now because I cannot lose my money again. I do not even have access to my garden to do what I want to do.
“If I do try to plant something, he comes in and mashes it up and does what he wants. Apparently, somebody in authority knows what is going on because this fella keeps doing what he wants. Reports keep going in, and nothing is being done,” Lowe said.
Residents who live nearby previously told Guardian Media that when the errant farmer sets the shells on fire, the smoke is unbearable and the rats run into their homes. One resident said the smoke triggered asthmatic attacks in his toddler and had to rush him to a health centre on a few occasions.
Minister of Agriculture Land and Fisheries Clarence Rambharat told Guardian Media that it was the first time he heard of the matter.
Rambharat said he asked the ministry’s Permanent Secretary Susan Shurland to request information from the director-Regional Administration, South.
“Once I have the information, I will work with my colleague, the Minister of Local Government to resolve the matter,” Rambharat said.