RADHICA DE SILVA
After two consecutive weeks of protests, Works Minister Rohan Sinanan says new pumps have arrived and will be installed to mitigate flooding in the Oropouche Drainage Basin.
Speaking to Guardian Media, Sinanan said the de-silting and drainage programme was on stream and every year a portion of the rivers are cleaned.
He said while the residents of South Oropouche felt the entire 84,000 kilometres of the South Oropouche River should be cleaned and de-silted this is a mammoth task that could not be undertaken in one year.
“If we do the entire length it will take years and it will take up our entire budget. That is why every year we do part of the river to maintain it. We have a programme that is ongoing and we operate within our budgetary releases,” Sinanan said.
He said the de-silting and drainage programme could not be advanced because of COVID which posed serious setbacks.
Noting that the two pumps arrived in T&T last week, Sinanan said they will be installed at the Tulsa Trace floodgates and at another point in the Oropouche Drainage basin.
“These brand new pumps are fully automated with much larger capacities than before and work is going on,” he added.
Over the past two weeks, residents of Suchit Trace, Debe Trace and Woodland have engaged in protest as they called on the Ministry of Works and Heritage Petroleum to rebuild the river banks.
President of the Woodland Flood Action group Adesh Singh said there had been no evidence of de-silting of the rivers and he also called for a heavy-duty pump to be brought in.
“The situation is getting worse. When we highlighted this matter earlier this year, 7 out of 14 gates were working but now it 4 out of 14 gates that are working,” Singh said.
Roland Binda, one of the largest landowners who has lost acres of arable land because of saltwater intrusion said both Heritage Petroleum and the Ministry of Works have not kept their promises.
Edward Moodie, the president of the South Oropouche Riverine Flood Action group said Heritage had built a road on the riverbank by cutting it down.
“The Drainage Division must move swiftly to cut down the trees that grew inside the New Cut Channel and the Oropouche River,” Moodie said.
He noted that the Met Office had predicted there will be five periods of three-day heavy rainfall fo this year. We have been getting one day of rainfall and look at the disaster. When October comes around, it will be worse. So get the equipment in now and clean the rivers,” Moodie urged.
Last month Heritage Petroleum promised to rebuild four areas of the embankment which can assist in keeping out floods.
The company said the existing road was resurfaced on the southern bank of the South Oropouche River in December 2020 to facilitate access to the pipeline leak site. The company said it was in the process of attaining authorization to commence restoration of the affected areas.