FORMER Port of Spain mayor Louis Lee Sing says the neglect of drains and insufficient resources by central government to the Port of Spain City Corporation are two primary reasons why flooding persists in the capital. On Sunday, Port of Spain was under flood waters, as much as three feet on some roads, when the rain fell.
Lee Sing, who was mayor between 2010 and 2013 said he expects flooding to be part of the city’s future if the Ministry of Works and Transport does not get its act together and target the clearing of drains and other water courses in and around the nation’s capital.
On Sunday, practically all corners of the country were hit by persistent rainfall, with areas including downtown Port of Spain and Woodbrook among the worst affected. Lee Sing said from his experience, most of the funds allocated to the city corporations go to pay wages and not enough is left to deal with maintenance of drains and disaster response.
“There are drains in the heart of Port of Spain that are no longer drains because they have not been cleaned for a lifetime and the filth in it has now concretised.
“The reality is that Port of Spain, being below sea level, once there is a consistency of 40 minutes of rain, heavy rains as we had on Sunday and with high tides, there is bound to be major flooding,” Lee Sing said.
During his tenure as mayor, Lee Sing said, the corporation proposed to government “certain engineering solutions” to the flooding problem. “We did have a conference where we got in people from the Netherlands. (The) then ambassador of the Netherlands made some experts available to us who spoke at the conference which addressed the issue of how to go about solving flooding in Port of Spain. But none of that, of course, would go anywhere, even though we had the resources back then to do it...financial resources.
“Now, you have a situation where there are less financial resources and one wonders whether in fact the regular maintenance that ought to be done is being done. I drive around the city fairly often and I can’t say that I’ve ever gotten sight of the relevant crews doing that kind of work.
“I don’t know that we are doing the kind of work that is necessary to ensure that we spare our citizenry of the agony of destroyed cars, and impassable pavements and roads. We cannot continue this way.”
He said if showers like Sunday’s continued, “We are going to have some serious problems ultimately, because the rains would have brought more stuff down and the drains would have been further clogged.” He said the Ministry of Works and Transport needs to get involved, as the city does not have the resources.
“I am not making excuses for the city, but I want to say that the government talks a lot about autonomy for local government, but nothing has changed in terms of the powers, nor the authority, nor the ability to spend.” He said the budget for the upkeep of the city was $20-plus million. “You have the whole question of sanitation of the city, but the bottom line is the money given for development of the city is always very minuscule.
“So it is only when you have these kinds of challenges is the focus really on what matters most, and so we’ve got to be start taking local government seriously.”