WITH THE Met Office optimistically forecasting near normal rainfall for 2019, it seems there hasn’t been any urgency to manage the flow of that rainfall through the nation’s watercourses.
Last week Dr Allen Sammy, Penal/Debe Regional Corporation chairman, warned of flooding in his region. Sammy has been calling on the Government to deal with the matter for years, offering strategies for remedy but has had no significant response.
Sammy claims the Ministry of Works says it doesn’t have the money to clean more of the larger watercourses. So several major rivers have only been cleaned part way, which almost guarantees greater potential for flooding along part of their path to the sea.
Henry Awong, chairman of the Couva/Tabaquite/Talparo Regional Corporation, echoed that the situation in his area is similar, noting that the Guaracara River, which brought floods to Gasparillo and Williamsville last year, had not been properly cleared.
Awong also warned that his corporation did not have the resources to buy sandbags or to maintain equipment used to assist families marooned in their homes after landslides or floods.
Minister of Works Rohan Sinanan announced last week that the Drainage Division had launched a programme of 375 projects to manage flooding proactively.
On Monday last week, there was flooding in central Trinidad after an urgent Met Office adverse weather alert. Another warning was issued for Sunday.
Sinanan did not mention whether any of the 75 projects which target the central region would address the circumstances that led to last week’s flash flood. It’s also unclear why any of these projects are unfinished when the arrival of the rainy season was a certainty.
There’s no question that having the Drainage Division declared to be on the job is a positive sign, but it would have been far better for the Works Ministry’s idea of being proactive to have initiated work earlier in the year.
Demonstrating a better grasp of proactive disaster preparedness was the TT Red Cross Society which launched its early flood warning systems on Friday. Over the last three months, the society has trained 600 people in disaster preparedness, fire suppression and medical operations.
The society hopes to extend the programme, based on a regionally developed early warning toolkit, to ten per cent of the population, improving the quality of early detection and communication of potential natural disaster situations.
Pre-planning for floods in the rainy season should be a core aspect of disaster management, but depending on the Government to lead on this issue cannot be the only response. This is a community problem, and the response must be encouraged and embedded in communities to be truly effective.