Blame-game as House debates flooding

In a common scene at Bamboo No 2, Valsayn South on Friday, flood damaged furniture and appliances are laid out in the front yard of a home during clean-up efforts. - Angelo Marcelle
In a common scene at Bamboo No 2, Valsayn South on Friday, flood damaged furniture and appliances are laid out in the front yard of a home during clean-up efforts. - Angelo Marcelle

SADDAM HOSEIN, Barataria/San Juan MP, on Friday got Deputy Speaker Esmond Forde's nod for the House of Representatives to debate catastrophic flooding as a definite matter of urgent public importance. He said TT was "drowning" owing to the Government's "unprecedented mismanagement and incompetence."

Hosein recalled the Opposition's past warnings in Parliament of flood risks.

"The pumps are not working, the Government is not cleaning the rivers, they are not maintaining the watercourses and the drains."

He said the Government had learnt nothing from the 2018 floods, with citizens now stuck in their homes, children sick from filthy flood waters and the ill having to ferried to seek medical attention.

Hosein complained of flooding after the Ministry of Works and Transport had unspent funds allocated to maintain watercourses.

For flood mitigation erosion, only $7 million was spent out of 29.9 million, he said. "Under drainage and irrigation, they were allocated $31 million; They spent $5.3 million.

"Major river clearing programme 2022, they were allocated $12 million; The revised estimate was $1.5 million.

"Infrastructure rehabilitation and flood mitigation programme, they were allocated $4 million and spent $800,000."

Hosein said $15 million was allocated for flood pumps and gates but only $3 million was spent.

"Shame I call on this Government! Shame!"

He hit the Government for last week's highway flooding when drivers took hours to get home.

Local Government Minister Faris Al-Rawi said ministers had visited flooded areas, including himself, Works Minister Rohan Sinanan and Communication Minister Symon de Nobriga. Saying disaster management systems lay within local government, he asked if Hosein was blaming UNC councillors for flooding. He recalled collecting vast amounts of waste nationwide.

Al-Rawi explained that three feet of rain had fallen in four days. "Carry that now to where the community is six feet below the road level; We saw ten feet of rain in some instances."

Lamenting someone in Bamboo#2 removing 80 feet of embankment from a a river, he asked if Hosein would blame the local UNC councillor for not tackling this.

St Augustine MP Khadijah Ameen mocked Al-Rawi's dress-style of a kerchief in his jacket, as she hit, "I advised the Minister of Local Government when he took up this appointment that pocket squares don't fix potholes. And I will tell you today, PR does not stop flood.

"You are out of place to attempt to blame our hard-working UNC councillor Seema Ramsaran who is the councillor for Bamboo #2 that falls under a PNM-led corporation."

She alleged "a deliberate undermining of local government" by way of unspent balances at corporations due to late payment by the Ministries of Finance and Local Government.

Ameen blamed the Ministry of Works, not corporations, for flood problems. "But, maybe, if the members of the Government were not busy dancing at their mayor's ball they would actually have some real preparation in place to do with their disaster management unit. I could tell you that one month's rent from certain person's on that side would help many persons recover."

Minister in the Office of the Prime Minister Ayanna Webster-Roy urged a focus on the social impact of flooding. She said the OPM's Gender Affairs Division has supplied feminine care packages to the local government ministry for distribution to needy women in shelters or isolated homes. Webster-Roy said the Ministry of Social Development has provided psychosocial support to people facing stress during the flooding via a hotline at 623-2608, plus a toll-free hotline for despairing individuals at 800-COPE (800-2673.)

Opposition Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar lamented how hard it was for flood-hit residents to lodge claims for relief, when marooned in water-logged homes. She lamented that the Government had shut down regional social offices, leaving residents to now seek help via online means. She said flood-hit Bamboo #2 was in a PNM-run corporation.

Works Minister Rohan Sinanan said by month-end TT would have had 200 per cent more rain than ever before, with infrastructure 70 years old. "(In) no part of the world, the infrastructure could cope with an increase of 200 per cent rainfall. This is unprecedented times." He said the ministry had restored connectivity nationwide, with nowhere now isolated.


"Blame-game as House debates flooding"

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