Too much red tape made flooding crisis worse

Monday, December 16, 2019 - 12:00

A call is being made to remove every strip of red tape when executing emergency services during a national crisis.

It comes from chairman of the Penal / Debe Regional Corporation, Dr Allen Sammy, as he slammed state agencies for their delay in assisting the thousands affected by recent flooding in parts of south Trinidad.

Unprecedented flooding in the Penal / Debe Regional Corporation has left thousands counting their losses.

But according to the corporation's chairman, Dr Allen Sammy, residents could have saved much more had the relevant authorities not conformed to rigid regulations during a time of need.

Speaking specifically about the ODPM, he maintains it is bogged down with too much bureaucracy to be effective in a crisis.

“One does not go—in the case of the ODPM—to the sergeant, the lieutenant and then give orders in a case where people are drowning,” the local government official argues.

And Revan Teelucksingh of Sewa International TT, agrees, but says it is not the ODPM’s fault it can’t be as responsive as it needs to. He suggests their protocols need a major overhaul.

“It’s not a good procedure,” he points out, “but they get their orders from a hierarchy; it’s not their fault. For me, the overall response from the state was pathetic. This year, we had two feet more water than we’ve seen in the last three years.”

Meanwhile, even as he admits that citizens are contributing to the flooding crisis with the improper disposal of their waste in the water courses of their communities, Dr Allen Sammy maintains that given the country's history of flooding, more must be done by the authorities to clean and maintain those watercourses.

“There is a lot of private machinery lying idle because of a downturn in the economy,” he says, “and I did propose a model where you can mobilize these people and use their equipment to clean, and then agree on a payment scheme afterwards. Also, you need to put in a series of detention ponds where you can. They don’t have to be the round ones we’re accustomed to,” Dr Sammy explains. “They can be linear or any kind of shape.”

He adds: “You need to replant the landscape, as well. And most importantly, you need to also involve all the communities across the country—500-plus in Trinidad and 69 in Tobago—in policing their respective environments,” he urges.  

Dr Sammy is pleading with the public to lend support to affected residents who are in need of food, water, mattresses and cleaning supplies.