3301675
Woodland residents protest along Pluck Road for the rebuilding of the riverbanks in the Oropouche Drainage Basin.

Bracing for flood devastation, Woodland residents staged the second week of protests as they called on Heritage Petroleum and the Ministry of Works to rebuild the riverbanks in the area. They also want a pump to be stationed in the area and immediate repairs to the 14 floodgates at Trinidad Point.

Hanging banners on their homes, along the roadsides and on the bridges of the New Cut Channel and the South Oropouche River, residents led by the Woodland Flood Action group are lobbying for Works Minister Rohan Sinanan to visit the area.

Adesh Singh, the president of the Woodland Flood Action group, said only 3,000 metres of the 84,000-metre South Oropouche River had been cleaned.

“We have videos to show all the Ministry of Works did was to remove vegetation, no desilting. And they did not start at the mouth of the river. The situation is getting worse. When we highlighted this matter earlier this year, seven out of 14 gates were working, but now it is four out of 14 gates that are working,” Singh said.

He said while the Government was moving to implement Property Tax, the people of Woodland were the ones owed.

Roland Binda, one of the largest landowners who has lost acres of arable land because of saltwater intrusion, said Heritage Petroleum and the Ministry of Works have not kept their promises.

“This part of the bank on the northern side, Heritage destroyed it. They indicated they will rebuild it, but two months have passed, and not a load of gravel dropped here. They are claiming they are going to start work on the riverbank immediately but we waiting still,” he said.

“Now the real months of rainfall are coming, the neap tide, this entire village will be inaccessible and people will incur heavy losses if they don’t do something now.”

President of the South Oropouche Riverine Flood Action Group Edward Moodie said they will escalate protest if pumps are not brought into the area. During the last set of rainfall, contractors from Woodland had to come into the area and lift the river bank to keep out the water from flooding the community.

“This time, we will take all the mud and we are going to bring it for heritage and we will bring it for the drainage department. We want a pump at Woodland sluice gate and we want the gates to be rebuilt and the riverbanks as well because the bank is non-existent in some areas,” Moodie said.

He added, “The Minister of Works is boasting that they 3,000 metres of bank repaired but let me tell you that The Oropouche river is 42 kilometres long, that is 84,000 metres of the bank so what you did is insignificant to what people need.”

Meanwhile, MP for Oropouche Dave Tancoo who has raised the issues in Parliament said Minister Sinanan has not kept his promises to the people.

“Instead of fixing the flood gates, he is talking about things that have not been done. Come down to Woodland now and speak first hand to residents of Woodland, Tulsa Trace, Suchit Trace so you get the truth and first-hand information. The flood gates are welded shut so where is the water going to pass?”

The upgrade of the Trinidad Point Gate Site in Woodland has been ongoing. In June this year, Sinanan said the importation of parts had been hampered by COVID-19.

Since 2019, the Government had embarked on a project to upgrade pump stations, sluice gates and flaps, but it has not been completed.