Furiously pumping water from their inundated fields, Penal farmers waded through floodwaters, manually clearing blockages and building mud banks to save their fields on Sunday.
It is the second weekend that the farmers have faced floods after a floodgate in their area failed.
But even as they worked to control the water flow, the rains poured for hours, making their attempts useless.
Holding up bundles of produce, farmer Samsundar Doon said more than 10 acres of watermelon, ochro, bhagi, squash, bodi and patchoi have been lost.
“Since last night we pumping out water. We are trying to see what we can save and we are praying that the rain will subside,” he said.
He added, “The situation right now is terrible. All the crops underwater and we are trying to save what we could save. But in this weather is really hard. Last night we had three pumps just pumping out in a few places since last night.”
Doon said more could be done by the Ministry of Works to protect farmers’ crops.
“If we could get a pump installed by the floodgate, that will help when this flood comes up,” he said.
Krishendath Ramgopaul, who had mud spattered on his face, said they were desperate for help.
“This is the first time we are seeing so much rain in March. It real hard because we are losing so much,” Ramgopaul said.
The farmers’ garden sheds were inaccessible in some places and farming supplies had been washed away.
Jan Ramnarine said whatever they managed to salvage from the last floods on March 5 floods was now gone.
“ We cannot stop the rain but we are trying to save our crops. We are hoping that the Government will fast track the incentives so that we can get back on our feet. We are owing to the bank and some of the agro shops,” Ramnarine said.
Community activist Glenford Ramnarine called on the Ministry of Works to desilt the watercourses which drain the Oropouche Basin.
“We have about 60 farmers affected by this flood. A lot of damage. The drains need desilting. There was a water pump by the flood gates but it does not have one right now. The people from here will not get losses if they put a pump there,” Ramnarine said.
He added, “This is the heart of the dry season and looks at what is happening now. This is the first time this year this has happened. This is one of the main food baskets in the south area. What happens when we really get the rainy season?”
Contacted for comment, chairman of the Penal/Debe Regional Corporation said the watercourse cleaning programme embarked on by the Ministry of Works has not been comprehensive and organised in a national scale.
“The Ministry of Works does not see south Trinidad as a priority. They rush into northern rivers to do work but do not do enough work in the south rivers,” Sammy said.
He added, “There is no active water pump available to pump out the floods. The South Oropouche Drainage River Basin emanates in the Mayaro forests, the whole of the Princes Town area and then into Barrackpore and Woodland. Forty per cent of Penal/Debe is within this drainage basin via six main wourses of which the South Oropouche River is the largest. Podai Lagoon is fed by the Coromandel River. We need a comprehensive national drainage programme to combat this problem,” Sammy said.
Contacted for comment, Minister of Works Rohan Sinanan said he was unaware of the farmers’ issues. He said his teams will be dispatched to investigate.
“I will await a report from my team of engineers on Monday, before commenting,” he said.