The institutional neglect of roadways that serve distant towns and villages in TT is so commonplace that it's become accepted as are the reports of collapsing roads, many of which are the single point of service for the inhabitants of these far-flung locations.
These issues invariably accelerate after heavy rainfall which weakens improperly supported land and creates slips that either destabilise the ground supporting roads or bring landslides down across them. In 2017 alone, multiple landslides blocked the road to Maracas, a remote beach destination so popular that the Government has invested millions in its refurbishment.
Last week, residents of La Vega called desperately on the Ministry of Works to repair a landslip that collapsed half of the road into their village. The road connects Gran Couva to Flanagin Town and while there is another route to La Vega, if it floods, it's impassable. Works Minister Rohan Sinanan said that the ministry was aware of the issue and that a team had been sent to investigate the problem.
Landslides and land slippage are not political problems. They are geological realities that are the result of water saturation, gravity and a layer of clay that gets loose from the underlying rock. Where these conditions exist, it's important to ensure that storm waters have a clear path to leave the mountainside to minimise saturation of the soil which includes water from drains built into roofs.
Leaning or bending trees are a sure indicator of an area which is prone to landslides and which might benefit from efforts to limit the factors that lead to land slippage. Vegetation, particularly trees, which have deep, penetrating roots are a powerful mitigating tool in binding soil together and providing resistance to slippage.
The UNDP worked with the people of Paramin, who manage soil erosion continuously, on a project to introduce vetiver grass to the hillsides of the steep mountain village as a way of limiting soil loss on heavily farmed lands. The yearlong project ran until July 2017 and 15 community members participated in the introduction of 25,000 plants.
Vetiver is a grass that has deep roots, which spread like an iceberg of anchoring tendrils into the soil beneath it. The plant, originally from India, has now spread to 100 countries, where its hardiness and adaptability have made it a popular way to stabilise soil.
There is an extensive network of knowledge available on these problem areas available at the level of councils throughout TT, but who is listening to these warnings of road slippage?
There needs to be a division of the Works Ministry that responds in real time to reports that are verified by councillors and evaluates these problems for response before they become intimidatingly expensive to repair.