RADHICA DE SILVA
Penal businessman Gangaram Narine who is accused of backfilling on a river reserve near his million-dollar mansion says he is not responsible for any flooding in the Oropouche Basin.
The businessman came under fire from several residents and the head of the South Oropouche Riverine and Flood Action group Edward Moodie on Wednesday after it was found that he had intruded on the river reserve.
On Friday, Narine took Guardian Media on his property to show the backfilling works in a bid to clear his name. Showing off a cadastral map, Narine said he owned almost 10 acres of land bordering off Railway Road, Suchit Trace and Sueradge Traces, Penal.
The river runs through his property. However, an incomplete fence and a 40-feet container were seen on the river reserve. Narine said this area had been surveyed twice by his private surveyors as well as by the Ministry of Works Drainage Division.
When told that the concrete fence posts and the container were on the river reserve and that the backfilling works had been done on the river reserve, Narine said: “That is temporary. We are not building a structure. We are not piling. We could pull out those poles anytime,” he exclaimed.
He explained that he was merely raising the banks of the river to protect his property.
Told that the backfilling was being done at the expense of surrounding residents and villagers, Narine said this was not the case.
“When I came in here to build, I had to clean the river myself. There are several places where the river has not been cleaned. If you look here you will see all kinds of tyres and trees growing inside the river. This is what is causing the floods,” Narine said.
He added, “I am filling up my land. The river reserve bounce to my land. I’m not blocking and piling. I must clean the place behind my house. “
He said he had offered to clean the rivers himself but when asked if he was an engineer, he responded, ” I don’t see any engineering in this.”
He added that he had offered his excavator and other equipment free of charge to the State so that the rivers could be cleaned.
“I don’t mind if they send an engineer and they use my equipment to clean the river. They are free to come through my property to clean the river,” he added.
Narine then took the Guardian to Railway Road where he said squatters had built their homes across a tributary, thereby contributing to the floods.
The massive wall surrounding his mansion was built over the existing watercourse but Narine said there were proper cylinders below and filters to block out any blockage.
Near to his land, the watercourse was clogged and stagnating. It flowed directly under the home of squatters living along Railway Line.
Meanwhile, officials at the Environmental Management Authority confirmed yesterday that they were looking into the backfilling works that Narine was doing.
An application for a Certificate of Comfort had been made in September 2019 to the EMA for the establishment of fruit and vegetable farm on 2.2 hectares of land inclusive of clearing, landfilling and establishment of surface water impoundments.
Chairman of the Corporation Dr Allen Sammy said the PDRC had an ongoing matter with Narine for several violations.
Minister of Works Rohan Sinanan said the Drainage Division will be investigating the complaints made against Narine.