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Rohan Sinanan, Minister of Works and Transport.

SHALIZA HASSANALI

The Ministry of Works and Transport has allocated $100 million to deal with this year’s expected above normal rainfall which can lead to persistent floods.

In preparation for the June to November rainy season, the ministry has embarked on a nationwide drainage programme to help reduce flooding in low-lying areas across the country.

But despite putting measures in place to deal with the large volumes of water from the rainfall, Works and Transport Minister Rohan Sinanan said it was impossible to eliminate floodings due to the change in the country’s weather patterns.

Joined by a team from the ministry, comprising permanent secretary Sonia Francis-Yearwood, director of drainage Paula Webber and chief technical officer Navin Ramsingh, Sinanan said in February the ministry began rolling out 350 desilting and 50 construction projects across the country.

The projects are being undertaken in four phases, with phase one being most critical. Some of the critical areas include Caparo, Diego Martin, Bagatelle, Lengua and Poole Rivers.

In the Penal/Debe region which faces flooding year after year, Sinanan said there were 85 projects to be done.

“We did slow down the projects during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. Fortunately, the Health Minister allowed us to restart the projects two weeks ago.”

Based on a report received from the Drainage Division, Sinanan said phase four was expected to wrap up in the coming weeks.

Sinanan attributed the floods to the high volume of rainfall the country has been experiencing in the last three years and the limited capacity of water channels.

“This is something we want people to understand. There is no way you can eliminate flooding. At least some point in the year some countries do get affected by flooding. What you try to do is minimise the flooding and ensure you have a quick runoff.”

Sinanan said the ministry has utilised 50 contractors to clean drains, watercourses and rivers during the dry season.

“So the desilting project so far we are trying to budget $60 million.”

The desilting contractors, Sinanan said would have tendered a price to the Central Tenders Board.

“You tender at the CTB….they send out a list. We use that list to call out the contractors based on the price they tendered.”

He said construction projects would cover more than one financial year.

Sinanan said the ministry will install mobile pumps and sluice gates as well as upgrade its pump houses at a cost of another $40 million.

‘But that is a three-year programme we will roll out. This year we are hoping to install five pumps at different locations.”

Last year, a pump was installed at South Quay to remove excess water from the capital city while another will be commissioned in Felicity next month.

Sinanan admitted that his ministry will apply to the Finance Ministry for “more funding in the mid-year review” to complete the desilting programme.

From next month, he said the ministry will dispatch heavy machinery in areas that encounter landslips such as Lady Young Road.

“Yes, we are prepared but at the end of the day we have to work with what we have.”

Sinanan said the ministry has to battle with developers, farmers and citizens who encroach, build homes and plant on the river reserve which hampers their work.

“Most of these houses should not have been built on the river banks. That is why every year certain areas are getting flooded out and people would complain they getting flooded out and the government not doing anything about it.”

Sinanan said he knows people whose homes have been repeatedly flooded will not support the Government when they go to the polls for the 2020 general election.

“It is par for the course. Unfortunately, it is an election year and if you clean 25 rivers in one area somebody will be able to find one or two that were not cleaned and they would highlight that.”

Sinanan said at the end of the day, nobody wants their home or property invaded by water.

“It’s not that we are looking for somebody to blame. But you need somewhere to vent. I have no problem with them venting with the politicians. It is better they vent than go mad. It is not a nice thing to see that everything you buy gets flooded out.”

Met office key message:

* June to August is likely to be wetter than usual with above normal rainfall.

*September to November is favoured to be as wet as usual with near normal rainfall.

Likely impacts:

*Elevated flooding risk in general, but more so for flood-prone areas.

*Localised heavy rainfall and prolonged wet spells will increase flash flooding potential in high risk/flood-prone areas and within watersheds.