To an outsider looking in, Felicity is well known for holding some of the most extravagant displays of deyas for the Hindu festival of lights—Divali. It's an area where amateur fishermen used to take part in fishing tournaments hosted by the Felicity Charlieville Fishing Association (FCFA) up to four years ago. It's also an area known for its high proportion of oyster vendors.
Unknown to the average Trinidadian, overshadowed by the Caroni Swamp, there is an almost unspoiled ecological paradise, a thriving mangrove system where the Gulf of Paria meets the Madame Espagnole River.
However, the environmental Eden is being gradually marred and defiled by indiscriminate dumping and the poaching of the Scarlet Ibis.
Imam Rasheed Karim, head of the Masjid Ul Furqaan said "Our village is neglected. I don't know the reason, maybe we fall in a wrong cadastral, sometimes party-wise you would realise the political scenario, this is a UNC-based area.
"Many efforts had been made by the various MPs, but somehow or the other, they tend to slack off and take the community for granted. That should not be.
"Felicity has a lot of potential, there is fishing, you can pull crab from the mangrove, there are many scenic routes that go from Felicity straight to the bays, such as Carli Bay, back to Blue River, and the Caroni Bird Sanctuary.
"It's a very scenic route for tourists and has the potential for boat rides on the river to the Caroni and bird watching, they will be able to see the Scarlet Ibis, other birds and animals, the same that can be found in the Caroni Swamp and can be accessed through Felicity."
He said, however, the Lackhan Kariah cremation site had to be relocated if they wanted to make the area a tourist destination, as the cremation site would be a turnoff for tourists being a grim reminder of death.
Karim said many other projects can be done such as developing the river bank and creating a water park.
He said Felicity had the most important commodity; water, a supply of freshwater and saltwater in the area's waterways that was conducive for "sweet water" and saltwater fishing, the same as the Caroni Swamp.
Karim said the area had the potential to generate revenue from farming as there was rich, arable land.
He said 65 to 75 per cent of the sweet potato that the country's citizens consumed came from Felicity because of the cane plantations, urea, and fertile soil.
Karim said the area just off Cacandee Road can be turned into a nature trail where visitors can walk from one point into the mangrove enjoying the scenery and jet skiing nearby.
He said about 30 years ago, Felicity was a thriving tourist destination that has now fallen into almost total neglect, at the time there was a working sluice gate system that prevented seawater intrusion.
Karim said the community was culturally diverse with Hindus, Muslims, Buddhists, and Chinese, Felicity needed the requisite infrastructure, with that, the development will follow.
He said in his 50 years, all he saw Felicity receive was a coat of asphalt in the road and a change in the diameter of the water pipes, nothing like the Laventille community swimming pool or senior citizens home.
Karim said there was a lot of room for development, the Government can create programmes to educate people on tourism, not only in Felicity since Barbados citizens were very knowledgeable about their country.
He said he was not fearful of overdevelopment, people had to have a global mindset, countries such as China, Korea, and Malaysia were rearing fish in irrigation canals which can be looked at and incentives to incubate tourism ventures should be facilitated.
Karim said a cultural sporting facility would be welcome, there was no outlet for the 15,000 residents who didn’t have space to portray the various groups’ traditions and culture.
Help the fishing sector
PR officer for The Felicity Charlieville Fishing Association (FCFA) Dave Seeram said Felicity was a thriving community born out of fishing and agriculture.
He said the fishing sector was now in a deplorable state and almost non-existent in part to the proximity to the cremation site.
Seeram said he would like to see activity such as the Carli Bay Fish Festival replicated in the area.
He said crime was a challenge throughout the country, Felicity was not immune to it and fishermen were affected as well.
Seeram said he would like to see a sporting complex in the area, the association lobbied the successive Governments from 2013 to 2016 to have a fishing centre built, Cabinet approval was granted, but to date, nothing had materialised.
He said overall he would like to see the development of the fishing sector in the community.
MP meets with ministers to find solution
Chaguanas West MP Ganga Singh, whose jurisdiction Felicity falls under, agreed that the cremation site had to be relocated. He said he took both the Minister of Transport Rohan Sinan and Minister of Local Government Kazim Hosein to the area and both agreed that it must be done to transform the area into a more aggressive tourism-based, fishing and recreational-based facility.
Singh said he was scheduled to take the Minister of Trade Paula Gopee-Scoon and Minister of Tourism Randall Mitchell to tour Felicity also.
He said the process for the relocation of the cremation site required a resolution to be passed at the Chaguanas Borough Corporation and Councillor for Felicity/Endeavour Debideen Manick had undertaken to have the resolution passed.
Singh said they needed to have consultation with members of the community since some were resisting the relocation of the cremation site.
He said those who were opposed to the relocation were thinking very narrowly and are not seeing the growth potential and commercial viability of the move.
Singh said there was crime in the area, but not as bad in other areas—there were incidents of robberies, none were major, the community required policing and patrols and the poaching of the Scarlet Ibis had to be addressed.
He said during the People's Partnership's tenure in office, the Madame Espagnole River had been dredged and cleared and this opened up recreational fishing activities. Singh said presently, because of build-up from the Gulf of Paria, the river will require dredging again.