MOUNDS of dirt and overgrown bushes are blocking several watercourses in Penal and Debe. As a result, residents are fearing the worst, saying the combination increases the chances of severe flooding.
At Curamata River at SS Erin Road and Suchit Trace in Debe, the overgrown bushes make it almost impossible to see the water in the river.
Jairam Bedasie, 74, who lives at Suchit Trace, said the river passes behind his home and some months ago he saw workers dredging it. However, worked stopped and the area near his home was not dredged.
The retiree was one of several residents whose properties were flooded last year which left people marooned in their homes.
"They dredged up to a certain point. I am living here 19 years now and got flooded twice. Caimans are living in the river behind my house. During the flood, they were all over swimming. I had 25 ducks and I had to put them in cages because the caimans were all by the back door," Bedasie said.
He called for the drain to be cleaned regularly to alleviate flooding.
Bedasie said: "We did not get much help for the flood. People gave out hampers and other things. I cleaned up and so on to prepare for this year. Just look at the condition of this river, with a little rain the water would rise quickly."
Another resident who identified himself only as Jogie, 56, saw some ants crawling at the base of the river and predicted a flood.
"They are fleeing to drier areas. It will flood again, whether they clean it or not. Last time we got flooded out and we got no compensation. The water is coming from Mohess Road and this has to always clean."
Last year persistent rains coupled with poor drainage caused massive flooding in south Trinidad and the Penal/Debe areas were severely affected. During a tour, last year at Penal Rock Road, Penal, part of the road near the Kubairsingh Hindu School turned into a river due to rising water. Even trucks were unable to pass.
Krishandath Harripersad, 77, lives obliquely opposite the school and said his home was not affected. But murky water filled the road at the entrance to his home.
One of the main causes for the flood, he said, is Pundit River at the side of the school.
"The problem is, there are large mounds of dirt in the river clogging the passage. An excavator and a man with talent would solve it. People from the Works Ministry cut the grass on top and say it is clean. That is not clean, clean is when you have free passage of water."
This river is also filled with grass mixed with garbage. Residents, including some from Nagessar Trace, told Newsday the river was also home to caimans.
Harripersad had another theory for the flooding and placed blame on some delinquent homeowners.
Harripersad said: "This is a low-lying area and nowadays everyone wants to provide a spot for their children. They do not care about other people. That pavement by the school was built about ten years ago and blocked off the water. They have to cut it for the water to run into the drain."
Chairman of the Penal Debe Regional Corporation Dr Allen Sammy said there were 99 watercourses in the region and not all had been cleaned properly owing to the lack of resources to hire backhoes and excavators.
"Some have been totally cleaned, so in that regard, we have had some success. However, the Works Ministry’s drainage division did some works, only in parts and not in its entirety. This is a challenge because we have cleared areas and uncleared areas."
Apart from the corporation and the Works Ministry, Sammy said maintenance of some drains and rivers fell under the purview of the Agriculture, Land and Fisheries Ministry.
"We have challenges in having them clean and addressing the issues. The agriculture ministry also cleaned courses in parts because that was what their resources permitted. Therefore, I see a challenge again this year and if we have rains anything like last year’s, we will be in serious trouble."
He said Curamata, Oropouche and Papourie Rivers are the main watercourses.
"There could be heavy consequences not only to household property but to agriculture. We estimated millions of dollars were lost last year. With the three floods last year, we have 1012 reported flooding of homes, it included a lot in Barrackpore and included the main watercourses."