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Thursday 18 July 2019
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Letters to the Editor

Dear Gary Aboud

THE EDITOR: I find it very concerning that an individual who wields such influence in public life would make such unsubstantiated and baseless statements in the public domain. It is obvious that you are unaware of some of the projects undertaken by the Ministry of Works and Transport (MOWT), as such, I take this opportunity to inform you and the wider public about the progression of drainage works that have been under taken in the El Socorro community.

The truth is, the MOWT Drainage Division has set an ambitious target of 369 active desilting projects across Trinidad. This number surpasses the unit’s targets in 2017 and 2018. In 2019, to treat with drainage and flooding throughout the country, the MOWT developed solutions for the short, medium and long term.

The short term plan includes the National Desilting Programme which is a perennial maintenance strategy. It assists with managing the county’s drainage capacity. Implemented on a three phase basis, Phase 1 of the programme was launched in January 2019 and not in June as stated in your letter to the editor. It encompassed a total of 114 projects; all of which have been completed to date. I am pleased to share that Phases 2 and 3 of this programme have been fully operationalised with 68 of 95 projects under Phase 2 completed and 160 projects under Phase 3 launched in June 2019.

In your letter to the editor (Newsday, July 5) you claimed that in El Socorro South, the last time that watercourses were cleaned was 2012. This could not be further from the truth as extensive drainage interventions have always taken place in that area. Under my tenure as Minister of Works and Transport 2017 to the present, targeted drainage solutions for that area has been implemented.

For instance in 2017, the ministry launched the 2017-2018 Desilting Programme in El Socorro South. Specifically, the MOWT cleared drains 5 and 10 in Sadhu Trace and drains 11 and 12 in the El Socorro Village. In addition, desilting works were carried out in Aranguez South on Williams Street at Chootoo, Collector, and agriculture drains along with Muller canal.

During the 2018-2019 Desilting Programme, watercourses cleared included drains 5 and 10 at Sadhu Trace, and drains 11 and 12 in the El Socorro Village, and the Newsday outfall drain.

In this thicket of misinformation that you have created, I would like to highlight that all of these channels flow into the main drain which runs along the inner embankment of the Caroni River called the Collector Drain. It leads to the Sadhu Trace pump site, which was also cleaned under the desilting programme. Furthermore, desilting works were carried out in Aranguez South at Williams Street on Chootoo drain, Muller canal, Collector drain and the agriculture drain.

It is important to note that El Socorro South’s natural terrain is relatively flat. These watercourses collect the surface water runoff from most of the drainage network system in the area of El Socorro South. During times when the water reaches the Collector drain, as stated before, it is released into the Caroni River via flood gates during low tide. When there is a high tide the gates are closed, triggering pumping operations to lift the water over the Caroni River embankment.

Mr Aboud, you should also be made aware, publicly, that two other projects are currently underway in the El Socorro South area. One entails the task of lifting the Caroni River embankment between the Sadhu Trace pump site and the William Street pump site and this work is about 80 per cent completed. The other project involves the installation of new pumps at the Sadhu Trace pump site, an initiative currently in the tendering stage.

This area that I speak of is considered part of the wetlands. As far back as the 1950s, it was converted to agricultural lands and to date it is now used for commercial purposes, which pose several unique challenges, as the catchment area for water has been greatly compromised. I would like to remind you, that you and others have also contributed to the problems currently being experienced in El Socorro by back filling low lying land to facilitate the construction of commercial businesses.

While the MOWT has not cleaned every drain in the area due to financial constraints and scarce resources, I remain satisfied that a substantial scope of work in critical flood prone areas has been completed thus far and the ministry will continue drainage maintenance work as required. In fact, I take this opportunity to invite you to connect with your parliamentary representative and councillors who can partner with the MOWT to maximize the use of all resources in the best interest of the community. It is critical to note that the drainage division holds responsibly for the maintenance of the natural/main watercourses in the area, while the Ministry of Rural Development and Local Government is responsible for drainage along local government roads and inter-lot drains.

I thank you for your great concern for the El Socorro community. However, I urge that in the future you verify your facts before making erroneous statements in the public domain.

ROHAN SINANAN

Minister of Works and Transport

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