Farmer John James shows the blocked access road which he uses to get to his farm at Platanite Trace, Barrackpore.

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While the sight of flourishing trees and crop-laden plants are lavish in the farmlands of Plantanite Trace, Barrackpore, the stench of rotting carcasses, decaying coconut shells and other garbage pervades the air.

It is another blow to farmers in the area, who are worried about pest and rodent infestations as companies and citizens turn the area used for food production into a landfill. They believe this has the potential to poison the soil and their bodies.

The highlighting of this dumpsite comes a week after Minister of Agriculture, Land and Fisheries Clarence Rambharat intervened to stop companies from dumping mounds of coconut shells on agricultural lands off Julien Trace, Barrackpore.

John James, 70, told Guardian Media that since an oil company left a parcel of land five years ago, following a failed exploration, people began dumping there. However, it is getting worse with people dumping a variety of dangerous waste in the area.

He said, “I feel very unsafe because at my age I could get sick. I know I have to die but I would not like to willingly give up my life just so. I would like to live long so I could educate the younger children who are coming up in society by showing them what agriculture can do.”

The illegal dumping is also an emotional pain as James recalled that in the final months of his wife’s life, she could not come to the garden because of the garbage dumped at the entrance of his land.

Liloutie, James’ wife of 47 years, was an amputee but would still visit their garden to help her husband.

She always rued not being able to help him with his crops and lived with that regret until she died in 2017. James now has to park his pick up on the roadside and take his tools and other material to his garden by hand.

“I would like to see some action take place with this, that somebody come and clean up the area. Also, there was a no dumping sign, and they removed it. We are losing a lot of things in the back here. I feel as citizens of Trinidad & Tobago, we can do better than this. We don’t need the authority for us to do the right thing. We should be our brother’s keeper. It is not right where we are going on here.”

A few kilometres over at Julien Trace, the Penal-Debe Regional Corporation sent a backhoe to another acreage of land owned by the ministry. There, companies that bottle coconut water dump thousands of coconut shells on lands used by farmers.

Ricky Gangadhar said that on September 11, a backhoe from the Penal-Debe Regional Corporation cleared the access road to the lands by pushing it onto the road leading to his garden. The Corporation also left the mounds of garbage on the lands, including those in the pond.

Corporation chairman Dr Allen Sammy said he only received a letter from the Ministry of Agriculture, Land and Fisheries, requesting assistance in the removal of dumped coconut shells.

Sammy said he would pass the letter to the Public Health Department, which will investigate.

Despite Rambharat showing a photograph of the backhoe on-site in Barrackpore last week, Sammy said he had no communication with the minister or ministry until he received the letter.

In July 2019, Rural Development and Local Government Minister Kazim Hosein called on citizens to record acts of illegal dumping and report them to the police. The fines for illegal dumping is $4,000 for citizens and $8,000 for corporate bodies.