A flooded house in Penal. (Image: KRISTIAN DE SILVA)
RADHICA DE SILVA
[email protected]

As the water levels in the rivers of the South Oropouche Drainage Basin receded on Friday, residents completed clean-up works overnight at their homes.

They were also relieved as Heritage Petroleum issued a statement saying it was on standby to rebuild four areas of the embankment, which can assist in keeping out floods.

Responding to questions from Guardian Media, 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.

“Land surveying and engineering reviews were conducted, which indicated four areas with reduced height along the embankment as compared to the original embankment baseline height established with the Ministry of Works and Transport,” the company said.

“Heritage is in the process of attaining authorization to commence restoration of the affected areas. It is estimated that the required work will take approximately one week, [weather and other circumstances permitting]. All required materials, equipment and other resources are already on standby,” it added.

Heritage also said it processed claims from 132 people and distributed payments in March and April.

President of the South Oropouche Riverine Flood Action Group, Edward Moodie, shows how the bank of the river was cut down to build a road leading to a Heritage Petroleum oil pit last year. (Image: KRISTIAN DE SILVA)

But the president of the South Oropouche Riverine Flood Action Group, Edward Moodie, said villagers had warned Heritage that it would put the community in grave danger if it cut the riverbank.

“This is a joke. When constriction started here, we told them they’re making a mistake to cut the height of the riverbank. They compromised the height of this road by four feet and now they are saying they did a survey and found four areas. We told them this and this should have never happened,” Moodie said.

He added that if Heritage brings a vibrator to fix the road, other parts of it will sink:

“We did the studies and there is 90 feet of slush, so this road is going to fail because the vibrator will loosen the material that is holding the road.”

Moodie also took to task the Minister of Works Rohan Sinanan, saying if he did not want to allow residents to clean the rivers themselves, then the Drainage Division must move swiftly to cut down the trees that grew inside the New Cut Channel and the Oropouche River.

“The Met Office predicts there will be five periods of three-day heavy rainfall for this year. We have been getting one day of rainfall and look at the disaster. When September, October comes around, it will be worse. So, get the equipment in now and clean the rivers,” Moodie urged.

He noted that the Ministry of Works cleaned 4,000 metres of the Godineau River.

“This is insufficient because the river is 42 kilometres long, that is 84,000 metres of bank and you cleaned just 4,000 metres? That is a drop in the bucket,” he said.

Moodie said his team, which includes engineers and environmentalists, was willing to take the Ministry officials on a tour to identify the areas that need immediate cleaning.