Rural communities have always been the best source of natural resources. Providing a sustainable landscape, it facilitates a multitude of livelihoods. However, within the Caribbean region, progress of any form must come hand in hand with infrastructural development. For the residents of Valencia, it has been ascertained that the reverse is happening.
Mr. Wendell Prescott, market vendor who services the market weekly as opposed to the weekend hours, explains that the Valencia community has not seen flash flooding disruption prior to development works.
“For us, the only thing we can do is report. Report and hope for better roadwork & drainage,” he stated. However, with each stage of project work the situation becomes worse.
As a result of such reporting to the local Ministry of Works & Transport one solution came in the form of two catch ways to the drainage system of the Valencia Market. One each was added to opposing sides of the market in order to absorb the runoff coming from the market and the district directly behind it.
“Clearly you can see these catch ways are only temporary. In fact, it adds to the problem because now the water is stagnant, “explains Eron Melville, Valencia Council president. He continued that this solution becomes a stopgap as the main problem stems from the incorrect size of piping which merges directly at the roundabout.
An additional effect occurs in that stagnant water invites pests such as mosquitoes which then carry disease. It is frustrating to residents that development works continuously add problems. One resident nearest to the river, Mr Cedric Gibbons, an elder of the community & ex mechanic, took matters into his own hands.
He, as with many residents regularly witnessed the volume of water that would amass with the briefest but heaviest of showers, which would then threaten his fowls, other livestock, and the foundation of his home.
Failing to gain the attention of the authorities who focused their solutions at the center of town, he took his own initiative to build a wall 60 feet from his home to contain the bursting of the river banks. Soon enough, other nearby residents did the same while making it practice to pay attention to riverine flood alerts as provided by the Trinidad & Tobago Meteorological Office.
Though temporary, these actions have had an acceptable measure of success. With residents seeking solutions, an introduction to the Escazú Agreement as a tool to support the lobbying & reporting, was made to citizens residents & council members. In understanding that the aim of the agreement is to ensure access to Information, Public Participation and Justice in Environmental Matters in Latin America and the Caribbean, Eron questioned how much of a benefit to his community it would be.
He asked, “From what you have explained T&T has not signed the agreement. How is it beneficial to us? In our area we don’t usually have laws and policies encouraged. People here have to see to believe. Our residents would rather go in person to report than go online”
As per the agreement, the Economic Commission for Latin America (ECLAC) Secretariat manages a public online space for interested persons to be informed about the Escazú Agreement and allow for their engagement, bringing together sustainable land beneficiaries from around the region.
“It is good to have many people talking about environmental issues & climate problems, especially to exchange solutions but with that being online the most concerned resident won’t be interested because they don’t use technology in that way. For almost everyone we can see the problem & we know who caused it.”
The Regional Agreement is a ground-breaking legal instrument for environmental protection, but it is also a human rights treaty. Its main beneficiaries are the people of our region, across Latin America and the Caribbean, particularly the most vulnerable groups and communities. It aims to ensure the right of all persons to have access to information in a timely and appropriate manner, to participate significantly in making the decisions that affect their lives and their environment, and to access justice when those rights have been infringed. The treaty recognises the rights of all individuals, provides measures to facilitate their exercise and, most importantly, establishes mechanisms to render them effective.
This story was originally published by the International Federation of Environmental Journalists, with the support of the Caribbean Climate Justice Journalism Fellowship, which is a joint venture between Climate Tracker and the Open Society Foundations.