WASA distributes water abstraction licences to farmers

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

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