The beauty of Palmiste Park has been tainted by effluent from nearby food huts which emits a foul odour and poses a grave health hazard to park users.
For years, waste generated from on-site kitchens has been freely flowing behind the huts unto the lay-by of Sonny Ramadin Drive.
On Tuesday, joggers, residents, and fitness enthusiasts joined with the Palmiste Historical Society (PHS) to launch a petition. PHS president Terrence Honore said the petition is aimed at forcing the authorities to promptly address the health hazard and safeguard the park’s natural beauty.
Expressing frustration over their previous attempts to seek assistance from various government agencies, Honore said the petition was their last resort.
“Over the past few years we have written to everybody, including the Environmental Management Authority (EMA), the Public Health Division of the Ministry of Health, the Penal/Debe Regional Corporation, the Ministry of Agriculture, the Ministry of Public Utilities and Minister Donna Cox who is Minister of Social Development,” he said.
However, their appeals for installation of a sump with proper waste disposal drainage went unanswered. Honore said the huts were originally assigned for vegetable and dry goods stalls.
“Eventually people started to cook on site which caused all the wastewater to flow into the road. It is damaging the roadway and we now have to smell this odour. It is most unfortunate and we are appealing to the authorities to treat this as urgent,” he said.
Honore said the Rapid Fire Kids Foundation playpark was also affected and he expressed concern that children can become infected by the bacteria and contaminants from the wastewater.
“The playground is a few metres down the hill and this is compounded as the wastewater flows into the pond and affects the ecology of this area,” he said.
Resident Christopher Cabral said he also tried to have the problem rectified with no success.
“This place is stink. I have been behind everybody to try and clean up this place. But PDRC (Penal/Debe Regional Corporation) only has excuses saying they don’t have money, and it’s not their duty. But this is a simple thing to fix. All we need is a sump to collect the impurities, old oil and stale food,” he said.
Yoga teacher Sais Maharaj also expressed disappointment.
“This place smells awful, it looks awful. It’s disgusting. The play park is right there and every day we have lots of children coming there. Every year we have yagnas in the park as well and people have to cross this filth to get there,” she lamented.
Pundit Surindra Maharaj agreed that the problems have been festering for too long.
“Whoever is in charge, whichever office that is responsible for the park, we want help. We are calling for the Palmiste National Park to be the botanic gardens of the south. This area should be given equal attention because it’s used by thousands of people,” he said.
One of the food hut operators Rianna Jim said they are willing to help financially to correct the problem but need authorisation first.
PDRC chairman Dr Allen Sammy said they have been trying to get jurisdiction over the huts and layby from the Local Government Ministry since 2013. As proof he showed a letter dated March 10 asking for jurisdiction over the park, lay-by and other facilities.
Local Government Minister Faris Al Rawi promised to look into the matter and then give a response.