For Penal residents, the sight of gloomy weather feels like an ominous sign.
After four years of floods damaging their home, a Penal family is pleading with the Penal-Debe Regional Corporation to upgrade its drainage network but to also crackdown of unapproved construction.
As last weekend’s rains filled the Navet reservoir, it left floods in parts of Penal that spilt into residents’ homes. For the Jaggernath family along Ramdharry Trace, it was the fourth consecutive year. On Sunday, floodwater rose into their home, causing damage and did not subside until Monday evening. While looking at the overcast conditions yesterday, she was worried that more rains would bring havoc.
Jaggernath said there was no drain in the street and a neighbour exacerbated the drainage issue by backfilling State land to prevent a wall from collapsing.
“People filled up and did not leave any drains for the water to run off. I wrote to the Penal/Debe Regional Corporation (PDRC) and all they told me they have it on file. Last year, someone filled a piece of land here, and we had a big flood. Now, every time the rain falls the whole place floods,” Jaggernath said.
During a flood in December 2017, residents of Clarke Road suffered as large volumes of floodwater spilt over from the drains. Jaggernath said personnel from the Disaster Management Unit and the Ministry of Rural Development and Local Government visited. It was then she first raised the drainage issues, but to date, they still exist.
Along the Penal Rock Road, another flood-prone area, residents said that new developments exacerbate the issue. They explained that every time developers begin to construct a new building, they backfill their property higher than the neighbours, only making the damage worse for others who lived in the community for years. More development also means the need to expand the drainage capacity.
On Saturday, the Penal Rock Road near Scotts Road was impassable as water from the adjacent river spilt over. Francis Prince said that in recent years, a landowner excavated his property near Scotts Road for an agricultural project. In carrying out the work, the work crew diverted a watercourse. But Prince explained that the large volume of dirt flowing from the property consistently clogs a culvert under a bridge.
PDRC chairman Dr Allen Sammy agrees that there needs to be a crackdown on unapproved development. However, he said existing legislation is weak and requires the attention of Parliament. Sammy said two issues contribute to the perennial floods: most of the region lies within the Oropouche basin, and more development causes increased water runoff.
“Many people have sub-divided lands, often without planning permission and are selling. They might be individual 5000 sq ft lots or more.
It has a negative impact on the drainage system. There are three bodies responsible for drainage: the PDRC, which has 99 minor watercourses, the Ministry of Works and Transport and the Ministry of Agriculture, Land and Fisheries. We try to clean all of ours, and since we bought a mini excavator earlier this year, we did not have many complaints as before,” Sammy said.