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File: This 2018 photo shows a section of the road leading to communication towers, which collapsed at Cumberland Hill in St James.

With a major landslide making Cumberland Hill impassable and threatening to impact national security communications as well as radio, television and cable broadcasts, the Diego Martin Regional Corporation said yesterday it is looking into how quickly it can be addressed.

The Ministry of Works and Transport is also seeking to address the situation as Minister Rohan Sinanan said a crew will be going there this morning.

He said the weather in the last few days caused a lot of landslips and added that drains cut by squatters also caused more water to flow down the hill and deteriorated the hillside.

Corporation Chairman Sigler Jack said he is aware that access to the communication transmitter site was affected and promised that all relevant parties will get together and address the issue.

He said the corporation, as well as the Ministry of Works and Ministry of National Security, are all responsible, in varying degrees, for the pending cleanup operation.

“An engineer is already there. He already visited and so on, and this is going to be worked on as soon as possible,” he said.

When pressed for a definitive timeline, Jack said he couldn’t give one as yet, adding that, “We are inundated with a number of disaster issues and that one, because there is a national security attachment to it, will be given attention to as soon as possible.”

Meanwhile, the Director of the T&T Publishers and Broadcasters Association (TTPBA) Kiran Maharaj continues to express concern about the condition of the site.

She said ‘the emergency’ potentially threatens several communication transmitters – including those belonging to electronic media outlets and the ministry of national security.

“I would like to ask that all of the stakeholders ensure that they can respond quickly and I ask that all the authorities at the various ministries also get together. This really is a time for us to collaborate and act urgently. We are in a pandemic. We cannot have our communication systems jeopardized in any way,” Maharaj said.

“If we cannot access that site, then our national security communications systems will go down. They will not be able to communicate with each other effectively and there will be a loss of most of the country’s radio stations and the three television stations.”

According to Maharaj, the area has been subject to deterioration in previous years and some rehabilitative work was done.

She claimed, however, that the Ministry of Works determined the hill needed more substantive rehabilitative work to address the issues.

Maharaj added that illegal cutting and construction seems to have redirected drainage systems, exacerbating problems.

“It is impassable. When I say impassable. Remember the type of vehicles that go up there for maintenance would be 4x4s, vans and trucks because we have generators that need to be refuelled. We have transmitter equipment that needs to be serviced. So, those vehicles definitely cannot pass on the road,” she said.

Communications Minister Symon De Nobriga visited Cumberland Hill on Saturday with engineers from State media, TTT, to assess the equipment there.

De Nobriga could not be reached for comment yesterday as calls went unanswered.

A long-standing problem

The problems at Cumberland Hill have been raised as matters of concern for several years.

Six years ago, on October 21, 2015, then TTPBA president Daren Lee Sing wrote to the then Minister of Works and Transport Fitzgerald Hinds, appealing for the road to be fixed.

“The road to Fort George and Cumberland Hill continues to be in dire need of major repair as at times it becomes impassable due to numerous landslides on route, as well as the road itself being broken,” the letter said.

The TTPBA had 13 requests in the letter:

“1. To declare the site a Security Restricted Area

2. To institute immediate police patrols of site and aerial surveillance

3. To have CEPEP cut/clear roadside and drains and maintain

4. To have minor repairs and improve drainage as a priority before road repairs by Ministry of Works

5. To have the Minister of Works asses site/and scope of repairs needed

6. To present a note on the status of the site to the National Security Council regarding security risks

7. To construct a Police/Army post and outfit with equipment/staff

8. To assess the feasibility of installing a helipad

9. To install CCTV cameras on site and roadway to monitor movements

10. To consider a security fence for the entire site

11. To consider a control gate on roadway

12. To approach Minister of Public Utilities re TTEC power supply matters

13. To ensure payment in future are timely to Users group re maintenance.”

The letter had noted that in addition to broadcasters, there were several other users of the site, some of which relate to national security.

“Access to the site, therefore, is critical. A helicopter is not an option because there is no landing, heliport or space to land,” the TTPBA had pointed out.

It noted that the TTPBA had in the past also been in touch with the Office of Disaster Preparedness and Management (ODPM) and the Diego Martin Regional Corporation on this issue.

“ODPM had indicated to the Regional Corporation the urgency of the matter but have relayed to us the fact that they cannot give a directive to the said Corporation.”

Cumberland Hill users

Non TTPBA Members:

T&TEC

Massy Technologies

Shell

TSTT

Ministry of National Security

Caribel

Massy Communications (Amplia)

Lisa Communications

Digicel

Heritage Petroleum

TTPBA Members:

CCN TV6

CCN Radio

GML Radio

GML TV – CNC3

TTT Radio

TTT Television

Caribbean Lifestyle Communications

TTRN