Saturday 5 December, 2020

Minister on flood mitigation: River bank tampering still an issue

Photo: Flooding in South Trinidad in December 2019.

Photo: Flooding in South Trinidad in December 2019.

Human interference which broke down riverbanks and led to disastrous flooding during last year’s rainy season may still pose a problem this year.

Minister of Works and Transport, Rohan Sinanan, told Loop News that the issues concerning people who cut riverbanks or planted, preventing work crews from carrying out mitigation works, still poses a problem.

“It continues to be an issue, but it’s a work in progress and we will take whatever action necessary against persons who infringe on these boundaries.”

Sinanan said that although their flood mitigation efforts were somewhat hampered by the COVID-19 pandemic, they are now working constantly to carry out mitigation works at waterways and major rivers throughout the country.

(Video: MOWT carries out flood mitigation works across various watercourses in Trinidad.)

“This year, like the last two years, we have ramped up to desilt a significant number of the major watercourses, and those works began at the beginning of the dry season.

“We did pause due to COVID-19, but that has restarted and we have all indications that we will complete the programme before the start of the rainy season, and we will continue as long as funds are available.”

He also referred to the success of the pilot project at Port of Spain but said plans are also underway to mitigate flooding in the capital.

“The pilot project at Port of Spain has been commissioned and over the next few years we want to roll out projects like that in the short term until we complete more long-term flood mitigation works.

He said an update will be put out on the areas which have are done and those which are due for mitigation works.  

(Photo: Sangre Chiquito River before and after desilting. Photo courtesy the MOWT.)

Some areas where the Ministry has conducted desilting to date, include: Nariva River, Swaha Temple Main Drain, Sangre Chiquito River, Collector Drain, El Socorro South, Arouca River, Arima River, Cunapo River, Ocean Sand Drain, Diego Martin river, Guayamare River, La Horquette River, Glencoe, San Juan River and more. 

(Photo: Desilting of Swaha Temple Main Drain. Photo courtesy the MOWT.)

Minister of Agriculture, Land and Fisheries Clarence Rambharat said last year that flooding which damaged crops in parts of Aranjuez North was due to human interference, in which people took material from river banks to backfill private construction areas.

“The Minister of Works and Transport circulated a drone to footage earlier this year of somebody removing soil from the Caroni Bank and taking it somewhere in Valsayn to backfill a place. We saw at least three areas in Aranjuez where that has been done.”

National Security Minister Stuart Young said that there were also instances of farmers planting on riverbanks and preventing work crews from carrying out desilting works.

Combined with heavy rains, areas across East, Central and South Trinidad were damaged by flash and riverine flooding in the latter half of 2019. 

(Video: Flooding in South Trinidad in 2019.)

Government issued TT$2 million for immediate emergency relief and residents were able to apply for natural disaster relief through the Ministry of Social Development and Family Services. 

The Trinidad and Tobago Meteorological Service has forecast an above-average Hurricane Season for 2020.

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