THE recent rains have left the road to Cumberland Hill – site of numerous transmitters belonging to broadcast media houses and state agencies – impassable since Tuesday.
The Trinidad and Tobago Publishers and Broadcasters Association (TTPBA) said on Wednesday that the association, as well as other companies who have installations there, has always maintained the road to the best of their ability.
However, on Wednesday the TTPBA described the road as not only impassable but “physically broken,” as shown in video and photographs, after it collapsed on Tuesday. This happened in the area where a landslide occurred on August 3.
Cumberland Hill, which is sited above Fort George, overlooking Port of Spain, houses Trinidad’s key communications infrastructure. It is the country’s main transmitter site, which gives the best reach by the majority of radio and television broadcasters.
In addition, it houses transmitters for divisions of the Ministry of National Security, the police, fire services, ambulance services and communication to oil platforms, as well as TSTT and Digicel.
There has been concern about the integrity of the hill owing to soil erosion for over ten years. In 2018, because of the worsening condition of the road and hill, the TTPBA escalated a request for assistance to the Ministry of Works and Transport and the Ministry of National Security.
At that time Minister of Works Rohan Sinanan asked engineers to do an evaluation and make recommendations for restoration work.
Phase 1 of that report concluded that immediate attention was needed.
In 2019, the TTPBA, along with the Ministry of National Security and other stakeholders with installations at the transmitter site contributed financially towards Phase 1 (urgent road repairs), and that work was completed in July 2019.
Since then, when there have been fallen trees and minor deterioration, the TTPBA said it had had to continue the maintenance, and in one urgent situation it got help from the Diego Martin Regional Corporation.
The TTPBA is now making an urgent plea to all the users of Cumberland Hill, as well as to the Works and National Security ministries, the Ministry of Public Administration (under which the Telecommunications Authority (TATT) falls) and the Ministry of Communications for help to mobilise the necessary equipment and personnel to clear the landslide and rehabilitate the hill.
The Works Ministry’s 2018 report recommended in Phase 2 “Rehabilitation of the Hill” and acknowledged interim maintenance and repairs were insufficient for the continued existence of the hill.
In 2019, the TTPBA said, after it initiated and completed Phase 1 repairs, TATT formed a committee and there have been several meetings on rehabilitating the hill and the ongoing need for maintenance, but with no definite outcome.