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April 2019

This plan may solve Trinidad's Biblical floods

A resident of Woodland wades through floodwaters on Sunday.

A comprehensive national plan is needed to dealing with the issue of flooding, says chairman of the Penal/Debe Regional Corporation Dr Allen Sammy.

Sammy said to deal with the issue of flooding, more has to be done than conducting maintenance work to rivers, watercourses and drains. He has proposed a six-point plan which he hoped would be implemented during the dry season.

Sammy said the plan was submitted to the Ministry of Local Government for consideration earlier this year, following the devastation caused last year by Tropical Strom Bret where thousands of people were impacted.

However, Sammy said despite a letter being sent to Minister Kazim Hosein, who then communicated and contacted the remaining municipal corporations to set-up a meeting.

That meeting had to be cancelled and was never rescheduled.

Had the meeting convened, it would have a starting point for dealing with flooding on a national scale and would have transcended politics. He said he intends re-submitting his plan to the Minister for consideration.

Sammy said many people are unaware of how one act of environmental indiscretion could have severe consequences.

He said: “A cup thrown in the roadside in (inland) Tabaquite finds its way to the sea and has its companion thousands of other cups, food boxes, car parts, stove, furniture and other man-made objects in its riverine journey. In my views the missing elements in effecting this proposed transformation is the political will. I’m sure that the Ministry of Planning will now rise to the occasion. Millions of dollars in crop, animal and household losses means pressure on the State, for which it is not prepared, insurance companies, lending institutions and personal savings. The State has a duty of care to its citizens.Animals 300w, 400w, 540w, 750w, 1200w, 1700w" sizes="690px" srcset=" 200w, 300w, 400w, 540w, 750w, 1200w, 1700w" style="text-align: center;" />

Displaced animals during the recent flood in Woodland. 

Sammy’s six-point plan would have been in collaboration with State agencies, non-governmental organizations, and the necessary field experts.

The plan includes a compilation of data, education awareness, legislation, re-vegetation program, a watercourses desilting campaign and the construction of watercourse catchments.

Firstly, Sammy proposed that environmental data is collected which would be conducted by State agencies, councillors and non-governmental organizations. This data would then be digitized and utilized by policy makers, planners and investors as, “audits are extremely useful in benchmarking our assets and planning for future use, restoration, conservation and preservation,” he said.

The second point is to embark on a national watercourses desilting campaign.

Sammy said in 1987, former Government Minister John Humphrey did this, and had resounding success as there was no major flooding over the subsequent two-year period and that idle equipment should be put to use.

“Utilize the idle equipment nationally, with negotiated per unit cost agreements by all participating contractors, including terms of payments staggered over a reasonable period of time. Humphrey’s foresight cost him his cabinet portfolio but it did demonstrate that with imagination, the political will and stakeholder participation, the water courses can be comprehensively cleansed. Our failure is programmed maintenance thereafter, exacerbated by the indiscretions of societal behavior,” he said.

Thirdly, the State set-up a re-vegetation program of the hillsides to include all of the upper and middle reaches of watercourses.

Sammy said hillside land clearing for agriculture is a system often abused by people and that this program with the planting of mixed fruit trees, shrubbery and the reintroduction of disappearing plant species, would become a benefit to all.

He said vegetative covers slows down the water runoff, can contribute to aquifer recharge, controls siltage, encourages wildlife, builds soils, creates beauty and promotes recreational and leisure activities. He added that these interventions, landslides would be minimized and there would be controlled water flows which would be better managed by the existing man-made drains historically designed for at least half the current population.

Sammy’s fourth point is for the construction of water catchments.

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Tags: Drainage, Flooding, Trinidad, rain


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