South Oropouche Riverine Flood Action’s Edward Moodie shows the backfilled river reserve at Suchit Trace, Penal.

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Even as the Ministry of Works clears watercourses in the Oropouche Basin to alleviate flooding, expansive backfilling of a river reserve continues at the Coromata River, along Suchit Trace, Penal.

The work is being done by a Penal business owner and has triggered protests from the South Oropouche Riverine Flood Action group.

Head of the group Edward Moodie said the Coromata Riverbank is being backfilled by a contractor without any approvals from the Penal/Debe Regional Corporation or the Ministry of Works.

“That is a controlled channel, a tributary of the South Oropouche River and any development you do, you must seek approval,” Moodie said.

The river, Moodie explained, runs alongside Suchit Trace, one of the areas in Penal which experiences perennial floods.

Since April the ministry has embarked on a dredging programme in the seven main watercourses in the Oropouche Basin with the hope of alleviating flooding.

Moodie said while the dredging occurs, the wealthy business owner has been undermining the river.

“On one side the river is being excavated but on the opposite side, we are seeing backfilling straight to the river reserve. The trucks are coming here with material and this land is the river reserve. There is no approval and no permission to do what is being done. It is wrong and needs to be stopped,” he added.

He explained that the area being backfilled could be more than one acre along the river.

“The businessman owns land from the old steel bridge from Suchit Trace, up to Debe Trace. His land is in Sieuraj Trace but he is claiming the river reserve. When there is heavy rain, the water comes down and gets into the river reserve. Now that he has backfilled the river reserve, this is going to cause mass floods,” Moodie said.

He explained that the government had acquired land in November 1970.

“The same person doing the backfilling has been served a stop order notice for internal drainage violations yet he continues to do illegal work on the river reserve,” Moodie said.

He noted that the businessman has a container on-site and has built an island road straight to the river reserve.

Contacted for comment, chairman of the Penal Debe Regional Corporation Dr Allen Sammy confirmed that the PDRC had an ongoing court case with the businessman for drainage violations which were separate from the ongoing backfilling.

He said all matters pertaining to river reserves falls under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Works Drainage Division.

Sammy said he visited the area on Wednesday and will be investigating the complaints.

When contacted Minister of Works Rohan Sinanan said nobody should be backfilling a river reserve.

“These are some of the challenges we face. These are some of the issues that we have to deal with when it comes to flooding. People are actually altering watercourses and building close to the rivers. Flooding is the result of what happens when people do these illegal blockages,” Sinanan said.

He said the matter will be investigated.