WHAT USED TO BE: Looking at the problems of the Caura Valley.
Changing face of Caura
he valley has changed drastically since 1945 when the last of the settlers of Caura were forced to migrate over the hills to Las Cuevas, Lopinot and other areas.
During the tenth anniversary of a ‘Back to Roots’ programme coordinated by Farouk Khan of the Lopinot Tourism Action Committee, Father Elliot Mohammed emphasized the need for remembrance and recognition of our history and heritage with special reference to our First Peoples and the lessons they taught.
“As we say the Lord’s Prayer, we ask him to ‘give us this day our daily bread’. That is exactly how the First settlers of our country lived. When they rose in the morning they went out and worked to harvest just enough food for the day and the land continued to sustain them.”
The congregation comprised descendents of the original community and visitors including Errol Mohammed, founder of the National Parang Association of Trinidad and Tobago (NPATT) and David Singh renowned Trinidadian harpist who opened the service with two serenading renditions.
Missing were the older heads who had loyally attended each mass over the years but who had since passed away chief of these being Ms Lucy Dolabaille who had lived to the ripe age of one hundred and four years.
There were however members of the community who have weathered the years in the valley like Kenny Boodoo who grew up listening to his foster family talk about the events of 1945 when the original church was dynamited to make way for construction of a dam.
Boodoo was the watchman for the new St Veronica Chapel built on a site blessed by Fr Ignatius OSB in 1992. In fact, Boodoo was part of the construction stages of the church.
“I started to put the frame down, steel first. It was a happy time and a sad time. People were happy to have the church rebuilt on another site but mourned the loss of the original church and the way it happened, all for nothing because the dam was never built.”
Boodoo is now a member of the village council. He speaks out for the preservation of the natural gifts of the valley and for the education of the present community in appreciating the values that the first settlers of the valley had instilled among their children.
Another Caura parishioner spoke of the selflessness of the people, a trait that is disappearing today.
After the commemorative service, Boodoo took us on a tour of the valley to show us how the landscape has changed over the years.
“Do you know that the Caura River no longer has crayfish? When we used to go down to the river as youngsters, the first stone we raised we could catch a crayfish. Now there is no crayfish to catch because the water is too polluted.
Everybody is planting garden and using chemicals on the plants. These chemicals get into the water and kill the fish. Now we only have teta and mullet.”
Boodoo pointed to the hills where trees had been cut to make way for large houses. Not only were the hillsides laid bare of trees but the river bank also.
“Bamboo used to hold the river bank but people only want to take and take and not put back. The way we were taught as youngsters here is to take only what you need and replant so that others could benefit.”
One major concern of the community is the lack of facilities at Caura Recreation Park.
“The park is now a very popular place where people come by the bus loads to bathe and cook. The Government had built toilet facilities at Pool One but now this is locked and only used by Forestry officials.
At Pool Two there is just no toilet facility at all. People do their numbers in the water and in the bushes around. When they clean whatever meat they bring to the river to cook, they throw all the waste in the water, guts and all.”
Someone expressed the need to do a number and headed for the river as we spoke.
Members of the community join Boodoo in calling for legal protection of the Caura valley and its waterways.
“Caura has been blessed by green forests and an abundant
supply of water. While we need to do agriculture to feed the population and share our river to give people pleasure, it is sensible to do these things wisely so that our valley would not be spoiled long term.”
People who come to enjoy our valley must join us in the fight to keep Caura as beautiful today as it was in the days of our first settlers.”