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A tree grows in the Coromata River near Suchit Trace, Penal.

With T&T expected to face an above-average wet season, flood-stricken residents of Woodland have started raising funds to clean the South Oropouche River.

In an exclusive interview with Guardian Media on Saturday, the president of the Woodland Flood Action Group Adesh Singh said a GoFundMe campaign has been launched. “There are three main watercourses—Trinidad River, Bhagmania River and Oropouche River. Over the last few years the first two rivers were cleared of vegetation but no de-silting was done,” Singh said.

He added that the Oropouche River has sections that are overgrown with trees and roots. “In some areas, the deposit of silt is so high that flat-bottom boats are stuck,” he said.

After making several calls for assistance, Singh said the villagers decided to start the Gofundmett initiative to create awareness and raise money towards cleaning the rivers of vegetation and de-silting them.

“There are areas identified where the banks have been compromised and we will also undertake the task of rebuilding and strengthening them,” he said.

Mindful of the COVID-19 restrictions, Singh said once the restrictions are lifted the villagers will start the removal of vegetation using volunteers. He said the monies raised will be given to a private contractor to desilt.

Meanwhile, President of the South Oropouche Riverine Flood Action group Edward Moodie said the Coromata River which runs along Suchit Trace also needed repairs to the bank.

“We need to safeguard the community by banking that river. We have identified areas where the equipment could pass. We have had meetings with the MP and everyone is aware of the need to do that work,” Moodie said.

He said when the river overflows, the communities flood marooning hundreds of people.

“Met Office is predicting heavy downpours over three days and we are bracing for floods. They also say we will have more storms this year. We are begging the authorities…Most of the river courses have not been cleared.

“We want the entire watercourse cleared and the banks repaired. In some areas if the work is not done we will bring in the dirt themselves and build back the bank,” he added.

Moodie said 30 years ago, the banks were over 20 feet high.

“Trees are growing inside the river and blocking the watercourse. When that water comes down from Moruga West and floods Poodai Lagoon, the volume of water is great and the entire area is completely flooded out,” Moodie said.

At the start of the rainy season last year, Works Minister Rohan Sinanan said $100 million will be spent to alleviate flooding. He said 85 projects were carded to be done in the Penal/Debe Region alone.