MINISTER of Works and Transport Rohan Sinanan on Tuesday advised homeowners to modernise the methods with which they built their homes while paying attention to the conditions at the locations where they chosoe to build them.
Sinanan was speaking to media as he visited Mandingo Road via Princes Town where a major landslip made the road impassable since December. Repair work, which cost $750,000, ended and last week the road was reopened.
Addressing homeowners, Sinanan called on them to get proper engineering advice and consider the weather patterns caused by climate change globally to protect their homes.
He said, "We (citizens) have to revisit the way we build structures, especially where the soil type is different. Engineering on houses has to be looked at in a different way because of the weather patterns."
Sinanan and other ministry officials toured two other "critical landslips" – one at Cipero Road, Borde Narve in Princes Town, and Lengua Road in Moruga. Both roads are impassable.
Sinanan said Trinidad and Tobago has about 200 major landslips and the Government can only repair a "certain amount" yearly based on the budget allocation.
The minister estimated ongoing work at Cipero Road to finish in two weeks within its $950,000 budget. A contract is yet to be awarded for work at Lengua Road.
Asked about residents’ concerns that the land movements could destroy their homes, Sinanan responded: "My responsibility is to ensure infrastructure is maintained."
He said there are other ministries and social departments to direct homeowners. He added the rapid land movements were no fault of people who built their homes many years ago.
In 2019, the landslip at Mandingo Road destroyed a three-storey house. The family moved out before it was destroyed.
Although the road is now passable, Sinanan said his ministry faces "some challenges and legal issues" with the owner.
Additional work has to be done on that property to control the flow of water.
"We are happy there is connectivity back on the road. We hope to get permission from the owner to drain the water off," Sinanan said.
"The leak is not from any utility company. However, we are in the rainy season, and there is a lot of rainfall. The land is already saturated."
Geo-technical studies on the Lengua Road have been done. He said repair works are expected to start in the dry season.
"That is the third slippage in the area over the last ten years. If we (workers) try to interfere (do repairs) with it any time now, we will just make it worse," Sinanan said.
"There are about ten to 15 landslips on the Lengua Road. We are not going crazy and just doing landslip repairs. We have to do the geo-technical studies to ensure that we are not throwing away money."
He said two previous attempts to stabilise the road there had failed.
Sinanan assured that there were ongoing infrastructural works throughout TT.
Moruga/ Tableland MP Michelle Benjamin also visited the Mandingo Road site and called on Sinanan to repair several deplorable roads in her constituency.
She also told him that some contractors had damaged homes, including Joan Callender's house at Rock River in Moruga, while repairing the roads.
Such reports, Sinanan responded, have to be investigated. If found guilty, the ministry would hold the contractor responsible.
Benjamin later told reporters said she is thankful for the minister’s visit.
While the project is completed at Mandingo Road, she said, there is still a source of water flowing underground from the retaining wall that no one could explain.
"On his way to this site, he passed many other landslips and saw homes affected," Benjamin said.
"I hope that this visit would put in his mind that Moruga/Tableland needs assistance."
As the tour ended and Sinanan and media personnel were leaving, an angry woman started to shout and accused the minister of visiting the area "for fame."
"I doh vote for nobody. Go from the back of here, no one wants to see you," she said.
"All the time the house was falling, where you was? You coming now when the road done fix for fame"
She did not want to give her name and Sinanan walked past her to his vehicle.