Residents of Moruga and surrounding areas during their protest for better road conditions in the area yesterday.

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With the $178 million rehabilitation of the Moruga Road two years overdue, angry residents yesterday set fire to tyres along the roadway demanding the Government use some of that money to repair dangerous landslips on the Lengua and Mandingo Roads in Princes Town.

The protest came hours after the Government reimplemented COVID-19 restrictions on gatherings more than five. There were more than a dozen incensed residents in the action who claimed that the Government was not prioritising work. Showing an excavator at a landslip along the Moruga Road, they said the Ministry of Works and Transport was starting repairs to a slippage that does not threaten homes.

Meanwhile, houses are crumbling in Lengua and Mandingo.

As unusual dry season rains continued, the landslip, which has already demolished one family’s home, has begun to take another. When Guardian Media visited the community on Tuesday, another part of Shamina Mohamed’s front wall had collapsed into the moving soil. Even the ruins of the Ali family’s home, which crumbled down the hill last August, had broken up even more. Last month, Sinanan said the ministry would do a temporary shoring up of the roadway to get at least one lane passable.

At yesterday’s protest, Robin Singh said since February 2018, the Government had promised to fix their road but did nothing. Last year, he said the ministry did soil testing and surveys but no work started. He said he was not asking for his home to be fixed, only the road repaired and the landslip stabilised.

“It is very unfair. The road has totally collapsed. Our houses are caving and slipping away, the rainy season is upon us right now, and we need to have this project rerouted to Lengua Road and Mandingo Road,” Singh said.

For Indian Walk resident Bronson Charlo, the rehabilitation of the Moruga Road is long overdue. Although the portion of the road he protested on was paved in the past few years, potholes are everywhere and the land movements damage vehicles.

“We are begging to get the road fixed and nobody is doing anything. Here, inside Mandingo, inside Lengua, the whole road is bad. This morning when I was coming up here, I got a flat tyre on this same spot,” Charlo said.

He asked people to compare the roads in Moruga to Port-of-Spain, Arima and Diego Martin.

“Here is the bush, so they do not care about us down here.”

Moruga/Tableland MP Michelle Benjamin said while some work on the Moruga Road Rehabilitation Programme had started, most of the road surface remains uneven. Benjamin said in Cachipe, Champion Hill, where works began, the contractor stopped, complaining that there was no funding.

“The prioritisation of projects is not being done, so we are in this problem here today; $178 million and our roads do not reflect that,” Benjamin said.

She said the repairs to a retaining wall in Indian Walk could withstand the rainy season. However, the villagers said that the landslips in Lengua, Mandingo and Cachipe cannot. She asked that the Government show some compassion and reallocate money to fund urgent repairs.

Sinanan: We are working

on the wider issue

On Tuesday, Minister of Works and Transport Rohan Sinanan noted numerous landslips and stabilisation works in Mandingo Road and surrounding areas. Sinanan told Guardian Media that his ministry is collaborating with the Ministry of Energy and Energy Industries (MEEI). He said MEEI geologists are carrying out tests in the area to determine the underlying issue of landslips. He said based on the findings, the ministry could revisit how it carries out stabilisation works in the communities. Sinanan provided an excerpt from a report which showed 78 landslips in the area, of which 10, including the Mandingo Road landslip, are receiving attention. The report showed that five factors contributing to the occurrence of landslips in Trinidad were roads built on ridges, construction type, soil type, sloping ground and water (rainfall).

Other extended factors include leaks from the Water and Sewerage Authority pipelines and poor water drainage from privately owned properties.

“The repair strategy for landslips, especially in expansive clay, is complex and requires completion of geo-technical investigations to understand the failure, the soil properties and identify the slip plane. Once complete, they can develop a suitable strategy for repairs,” he said.

The report states that the Mandingo Road landslip falls into this category and to date, the technical staff has completed the preliminary geo-technical investigation and designs for a suitable, cost-effective repair solution. Subject to confirmation of funds, the work on the landslip should begin in three weeks. The project should restore connectivity and stabilise the slip from further movements.