RADHICA DE [email protected]
Thirty-two million dollars have been spent on drainage and flood mitigation by the government since 2018 yet residents of St John’s Trace, Avocat say they are bracing for the worst possible flood this year.
This is because several of the flood gates which are supposed to regulate the water flow throughout the Oropopuche Drainage Basin have broken down and have not been repaired in time for the hurricane season.
On Tuesday, the anxious residents gathered at the seven gate site at St John’s Trace where they called for the entire system to be overhauled. Resident Rodney Ramjit said the Ministry of Works Drainage Division mobilized a contractor to cut a new channel to allow the water to drain. However, he said this diversion was not blocking saltwater from entering the acreages so saltwater from the Gulf of Paria was coming upstream during high tide and flooding people’s crops.
“We have about 100 acres of land that already got destroyed by the saltwater. We are suffering because the floodgates are not working. It has seven gates and only two of them are working. The other five seized up and does not work,” Ramjit said.
Michael Chattargoon, President of Siparia Old Road, Village Council said while the Ministry has hired a contractor to fix the problem the pave of work has been slow.
“They supposed to fix this floodgate since June 2019 but we are now in 2020 and we still suffering,” Chattargoon said. He explained that over 100 acres of farming lands have become useless because of the invasion of saltwater.
“In 1965 we used to have truckloads of watermelon coming out of here. We used to be the food basket of the southland but now it is a disaster. You hardly have people planting anymore,” he added.
Roopnarine Premchand said behind his home saltwater marshes have started to grow.
“The saltwater killing everything. When we get rain and the floods come, we will lose everything unless these flood gates are not repaired as soon as possible,” Premchand said.
President of the South Oropouche Riverine Flood Action group Edward Moodie said he was afraid of the impending floods.
“There is a contract awarded and the river is supposed to be diverted. If you look at the river you will see about 75 feet to 80 feet of the river but the diversion is probably less than 10 feet so it could never accommodate the water,” Moodie said.
He added, “The sluice gates should be the width of the river. The sluice gates have to be higher. The concrete structure is going to act as an impediment when the floods come and this construction will block the watercourse so it will be detrimental to the people.”
He said when the rains fall, the water flows from Pluck Road, Woodland, Fyzabad and Siparia. “When all that passes through here it is higher than this structure. There is no way this amount of dirt will stop the water from inundating these people. I am afraid that someone will drown,” he added.
Moodie said the 14 part flood gates of Woodland was also in a state of disrepair and many of the gates could not be opened during times of flood. He also said the barriers from the gates at Tulsa Trace had been removed but the structure remained so it acted as an impediment for debris.
MP for the area Dr Lackram Bodoe said he raised the matter four times in Parliament and promises were made to have the gates fixed.
With the rainy season here, Bodoe said he wanted Minister of Works Rohan Sinanan to immediately complete repairs to the gates to mitigate against devastating floods.
Chairman of the Siparia Regional Corporation Dinesh Sankersingh also called on the Ministry of Finance to release funds to the Corporation so that they could continue desilting of the watercourses in the area.
Contacted for comment, Minister Sinanan said the flood gates were designed by the experts at the Ministry. He said the Ministry was being guided by senior engineers. He noted that the works on the floodgates were ongoing.
In 2018, $32 million was spent by the government on flood mitigation. For this year $100 million was allocated for desilting of over 400 watercourses.
PHOTOS BY KRISTIAN DE SILVA