Eight farmers who were warned by WASA for abstracting water illegally - including four who were charged - have all applied for and received abstraction licences.
Confirmation of this has come from Public Utilities Minister Robert Le Hunte, who told reporters at Parliament yesterday that “these are being worked on together with (applications) for a number of other individuals and WASA is working closely with the respective bodies to have this resolved expeditiously and amicably so farmers won’t be affected.”
Le Hunte had earlier made a statement on the issue in the Senate.
He also assured that WASA’s vigilance on water resources “will extend even beyond gated communities and throughout all of T&T to ensure potable water isn’t wasted.”
Le Hunte was replying to a query as to whether WASA’s conservation patrol efforts would be limited to only to open/farming areas.
The announcements by the Public Utilities Minister on the controversial issue arose ahead of today’s court matter by four Aranguez farmers whose pumps were recently seized by WASA. Other farmers supported them with protests last weekend, some saying they would attend today’s court matter. The farmers who were charged have also gotten abstraction licences, according to the Minister.
Yesterday Opposition Senator Wade Mark asked Le Hunte about WASA’s continued seizure of farmers’ pumps and the negative impact on agriculture.
Le Hunte said, “It’s public knowledge the Agriculture Minister has been meeting with farmers and their representatives. Additionally, WASA has been in contact with the farmers, their representatives and community leaders in the areas. Based on these interventions in the last three weeks, a number of applications have been received for abstraction licences and these applications are being processed expeditiously.
“However, this process entails the examination of the proposed water courses to ensure the water being abstracted is in keeping with good sanitation and meets the qualifying criteria for basic raw water. WASA continues to put measures in place to ensure that potable water is available for all citizens,” he said.
Le Hunte later told reporters, “It’s my understanding that WASA is in contact with the relevant individuals who were warned and charged and a number of them have since applied for abstraction licences so the matter is being amicably resolved.”
Those charged and whose pumps were seized came from Aranguez, Arouca, and Bon Air, he added.
Le Hunte said about 300 abstraction applications have been received.
These have come from Plum Mitan (180 farmers applied as an association), Aranguez (99), Bon Air (9), Felicity (5), Maloney (1 in an association), Orange Grove (5), Maracas/ St Joseph (1), Orange Grove (5, one of which is an association.)
He said the time frame for granting a licence is usually a month.
“However, current applications are being expedited and are expected to be completed within two weeks. The process involved in granting a licence involves conduct of field investigation to determine where water is to be abstracted and the quality of water. A report is also done on preparation and granting of licences,” he said.
Le Hunte said tests are done at WASA’s labs. The basic standard for raw water quality is the test of the presence of micro-organisms which could cause illness.
He said abstraction licences ensure water is not taken from watercourses and there are certain tests that are required to be done on water for it to be used. Licences will allow farmers to use water from springs or other ground sources.
Le Hunte said the Agricultural Society has sought applications and “there’s been a lot response from other farmers. I’m satisfied with the attention which was drawn to the matter has resulted in a positive response. There was never an intention to stop farmers from producing or stopping water from being used. It’s about using the correct water source.”
He said pumps were also seized on May 9 and 11.
“So this isn’t widespread and people have applied for licences,” he said.
On why pumps aren’t being seized in places like Moka, Le Hunte said companies there using sprinklers have abstraction licences using raw water - not drinking water.
Reporter: Gail Alexander