Enjoy that sunshine—it’s only one month before the rainy season starts.
And in preparation for that, the Works Ministry’s desiliting programme on rivers and other watercourses has been on since January, Works Minister Rohan Sinanan said yesterday.
The timeline to the rainy season was confirmed by the Meteorological Office recently when officials spoke to the T&T Guardian on the Sahara Dust problem.
They pointed to the upcoming rainy season in view of bush fires around T&T and the damage which could be caused if watercourses are clogged with bush fire debris.
Also, concerns were raised by some North-South travellers last Saturday when it was observed that the lagoon which runs parallel to the Uriah Butler Highway near the Guayamare, was almost level with the road. During last year’s October floods, canals in that area were responsible for the overflow onto the highway which caused the road to be closed when the Caroni River burst its banks.
Contacted yesterday, Sinanan said: “The ministry’s desilting programme, which is a mammoth programme comprising 300 projects around T&T, would have started in January. Work includes clearing all major watercourses, including the Caroni River. Work is also being done in areas affected by last year’s flood like Greenvale, Aripo and others.”
However, he said he did not have status specifics at hand.
Sinanan added: “On the water that was seen in the canal alongside the Uriah Butler Highway, the level there is controlled by high tide and when the tide is up the backflow runs into that area. Clearing there is also an ongoing job since the water brings down lots of lilies.”
Local Government Minister Kazim Hosein added: “We’ve put a plan in place since start of the dry season for the corporations to use labour resources—which received a lot of funds for wages—to clear drains and rivers.
“Some corporations which were hard-hit by floods—Rio Claro, Sangre Grande, Penal, Princes Town—began their action immediately. I’m meeting with mayors of all corporations Friday to be updated on work.”
However, UNC Caroni Central MP Ganga Singh, whose constituency was one of the worst-hit areas in last year’s flood, disputed this.
“I’ve been moving around areas monitoring the situation to see how far work has reached and I really haven’t seen the kind of work required to prevent major flooding. So far, the situation looks like another disaster waiting to happen,” Singh said
“The Royal Haskoning Report submitted to the then government in 2014 and which was to have been our major anti-flood plan—though general elections preempted this—made several recommendations on what should be done on the Caroni River Basin.
“But here is the current situation with some of those recommendations: retention dams (not happening), dredging/desilting of Caroni River (not happening), raising the embankment (not happening).”
Singh added, “I drove through Greenvale last week and the brush-cutting and river work that is occurring doesn’t give me comfort as being significant. That’s also since another housing development is going up in the area. Ongoing work isn’t commensurate with the problem there.
“Two weeks before the rainy season starts, I’ll raise the matter of preparedness in Parliament again. Meanwhile, we watch the clock and the skies.”
Reporter: Gail Alexander