Healthier environment urged at JSC’s Arima meeting

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

Independent Senator Dr Paul Richards. File photo

CERTAIN farmers are extracting water from a polluted river in Arima and using it to water their food crops, which are then sold at markets to the unsuspecting public, a man alleged at a public consultation at Arima Community Centre on April 25.

The Joint Select Committee (JSC) on Social Services – chaired by Independent Senator Dr Paul Richards – held its fourth town hall meeting on the theme Public Health Care Services and You, attended by an overflowing audience.

While the parliamentary committee sought to examine people’s experiences of the public health system, it heard impassioned calls from two members of the public urging the provision of a healthier living environment for people, regarding pollution in Arima and the psycho-social environment.

Arima resident Azini Gulab complained about pollution from the local dump/landfill, which he feared could cause cancer.

“They start to light it afire, the whole town is smoke. When rain falls, the fumes come up and goes over the town.”

In addition to smoke from the dump, he worried about fumes from traffic and from the nearby industrial estate at O’Meara.

“All that pollution is going up and mixing over the town. People are affected.”

He noted the area included many farmers planting vegetable gardens and also many schools housing children which he named.

“We need people to address these things before people get sick and ‘no cancer medicine’ and thing.”

He alleged WASA water tests had found Mausica River to be the most polluted river in the East-West Corridor.

“There is a next river, with water run off from the dump. People are taking that and watering their produce and bringing it to sell in the market.”

He said a past Arima mayor had given him a hearing, but otherwise he had seen no action taken on his pollution concerns.

Physician Dr Robert Moultrie emphasised the need for preventative measures against ill-health, and offered some suggestions, including lifestyle changes.

“Psycho-social issues very much have a big effect upon the mind and that affects the body’s health.

“So while we deal with the various NCDs as such in their individuality, we must also take into a higher account the issues going on in our society, and in our relationships that we are passing down the generations causing crime and distress in communities.” Psychosocial issues have a big effect on the health of family members, including the elderly, the children and the unborn, Moultrie said.

“Do some work to bring all of these things together, so that the systems that help individuals are working with each other.

“One person gets many levels of different kinds of support, as a result of this.”

He urged compassion for doctors and an examination of what was happening in the public health system.

“But one thing I see that is a major problem is that we have a lack of empathy intelligence all around. There are a lot of people that lack empathy.

“We have people in our systems helping other people that just don’t care. We need to address them.”