Talparo residents and farmers are calling for a bridge in their community to be repaired quickly as its condition now threatens their livelihoods and lives.
Those living in Joseph Lewis Trace said that for 20 years they’ve been carefully driving over a dilapidated bridge which allowed the only access to their farmlands and homes.
However, recent floods from the river severely affected the integrity of the structure.
“It is foot traffic only, so I am lucky my car got stuck outside while my husband’s car is stuck inside. Any of the residents with their cars stuck outside, they have to walk in. We can’t cross the bridge with a vehicle, it is as simple as that,” said Gillian Scott, an organic egg farmer in the community.
Scott said she now has to tote her eggs and chicken feed by hand over the bridge. But for other farmers, the sheer weight of their produce makes the trek a dangerous task.
“We can’t walk on this bridge with any load, the planks are totally rotten. It is shaky,” said farmer David Headlie who said he expects to lose up to $50,000 since the latest issue with the bridge.
It’s not only their livelihoods they are worrying about, but their lives.
“We have no access to garbage disposal. If we were to have a fire in here the fire service can’t come. People had heart attacks and couldn’t get out,” Headlie added.
The residents and farmers said they were willing to pay for the repair and have volunteered to do so themselves.
“All we ask is for them to give us the opportunity to repair it ourselves and they told us we cannot do the bridge because it is a Government bridge and it needs certain specifications. We asked them to send the engineers and labourers, we would pay them, but to no avail,” Headlie said looking back at the rickety structure.
They’re also fed up of waiting for assistance from the official entities as they claim the Ministry of Works and Transport and the Couva Tabaquite Talparo Regional Corporation pass the responsibility back and forth.
“I have personally met with at least 10 different bodies from the Government, MP’s, councillors and engineers, and I can tell you nothing has been done for us, nothing,” said Scott who believes their issue is perceived as low priority because they live and work in a rural area.
Guardian Media attempted to contact their Member of Parliament, Foster Cummings but all calls went unanswered.
However, the councillor for the area, Ryan Rampersad said as an interim measure, the regional corporation will be providing trucks and labour to help take the farmers’ produce to market. He said funding has always been an issue as he believes an entirely new bridge is needed.
The councillor was unaware that the residents are willing to foot part of the bill. Rampersad said he spoke with Cummings who said the bridge is on his agenda.
Those who use the bridge are hoping someone answers their call soon. They don’t know how long the few planks of wood that are left will stay in place.
With nervous glances to the dark sky yesterday, they were hoping it held up long enough, believing that one more flood which is indigenous to their area, will leave them cut off for good.