Frustrated Woodland residents held a demonstration on Saturday morning to highlight flooding woes in the area.
The exercise – the second in a week – was led by the South Oropouche Riverine Flood Action Group and supported by the Debe/Penal Regional Corporation.
The demonstration started around 9 am near the South Oropouche river, with residents holding placards with messages expressing their frustration.
The homes of residents along La Fortune Pluck Road also had white flags and banners showcasing their plight for the authorities to install proper drainage to mitigate the flooding.
Police were present and monitored the residents to ensure covid19 protocols and restrictions under the state of emergency were adhered to.
President of the group Edward Moodie told Sunday Newsday that every time rain fell, the area experienced severe flooding which affected lives and livelihoods.
He alleged that work undertaken by Heritage Petroleum Co Ltd has exacerbated the situation in recent months.
He said the work was to make way for a road and had approval from the Drainage Division.
Moodie said the group has expressed its concerns to Heritage on many occasions, but it has fallen on deaf ears.
He said they feared what will happen over the next three months of the rainy season and, with increased climate change, it was difficult to predict the extent of damage that could take place.
Moodie said, “They turned a riverbank which was 30 feet wide into four feet for the large volume of water that drains all of south Trinidad.
“Woodland would again be flooded out and the people would again have to live through this disrespect. We are calling on the Drainage Division to get their act together and rebuild this bank.”
Moodie called for an immediate completion of the construction of the floodgates, the installation of a water pump and the clearing of other water in the varea.
He added that businesses and commerce in the area was drastically affected, arable land was destroyed and poultry and cattle were lost due to the flooding and negligence of the authorities.
Debe/Penal Regional Corporation chairman Dr Allen Sammy said while the region fell under the Siparia Regional Corporation, he found it necessary to support the action of the Woodland residents because flooding should be taken seriously.
“We are standing in solidarity with the movement because we have been petitioning for some time to have the water courses cleaned in a comprehensive manner,” Sammy said.
He added that the Prime Minister knows of the challenges residents in south Trinidad faced and was yet to action the required work to address flooding in the area.
Sammy said, “The Prime Minister actually came here a few years ago and saw a breach in the (river) bank which overflowed into the lagoon. Clearly, he saw the problem and yet, two or three years later it continues.
“The people suffer as a consequence. These people are severely traumatised and all we are doing is measuring losses in dollars and cents, but it's much more than that. The people continue live under continuous psychological stress. They cannot continue to live like that.”
He added that they have reached out to Minister of Works and Transport Rohan Sinanan but are yet to settle on a date for a meeting.
Christopher Moodie has been a resident of the area since the 1960s. He told Sunday Newsday that the river then was regularly dredged and the surroundings maintained.
Over the past three decades, however, Moodie said work on the river has been minimal and, in some instances, nonexistent, which has led to the build-up of silt and debris at the bottom of the river.
“The branches cover the river, making it impassable for the fishermen. They have to keep dodging branches and we are unable to clear it. It is dangerous for them.”
Resident Roland Binda, whose main source of income came from cattle farming, has been severely affected by the floods over the years. He said many others involved in farming and agriculture have had to move to high ground or find other means of earning a salary.
“People incurred heavy losses. The entire Oropouche lagoon had a thriving food basket. People moved from vegetable farming to dairy farming to beef farming to the point where nothing can grow and animals can’t get grass to eat,” Binda said.
The group has held similar demonstrations in south Trinidad. Sunday Newsday tried to contact Heritage but was unsuccessful.