THA/landowner dispute spills over: Black Rock community flooding

Kenneth Cameron, a Black Rock resident, shows the damage to his home caused by an overflowing river.  - Kinnesha George-Harry
Kenneth Cameron, a Black Rock resident, shows the damage to his home caused by an overflowing river. - Kinnesha George-Harry

Although the rainy season has only just started, residents and business owners of Plymouth/Black Rock have already had to deal with flooding.

But, they say this is not the result of excessive rainfall but of one landowner's attempts to "reclaim" his land.

The landowner, Glenford Small, said he bought the land in 2005 and recently had cause to backfill the area, blocking the river mouth.

At a press conference on Monday, residents said the blockage caused the river to back up on their properties.

President of the Plymouth/ Black Rock Village Council Learie Paul said a few weeks ago, landowner blocked the river course where it passes through his property.

“If you are now trying to reclaim your land, you cannot do it at the expense of the community. The rights of one never trump the rights of all.”

Paul wants the landowner to work with the community, saying the issues Small faces with the Tobago House of Assembly do not concern the residents.

“We are saying let us talk, let us collaborate. We are not dealing with the ownership of the land, that’s not our issue. We are saying that the blockage of the river mouth would have caused a village to be in pain and that is what I am concerned about.”

Head of the Plymouth/Black Rock Fishing Association Curtis Douglas said the entire community is affected. including fishermen.

“We also look forward to the flowing of this river. because it helps with our fish catch, so it affects us. And right now, the natural course, the flow of the river right now is really damaging a lot of the turtle-nesting grounds.”

One resident, who asked to remain anonymous, said when the river overflows, she bears the brunt of it.

"My house is right in the corner there, so it full up all my plants underneath the house. Something have to be done here with this river. We have to get the water to run off properly.”

Another resident said: “I have a small garage across there. My whole yard flood out, so I cannot work, as under all my vehicles and them have water.”

A livestock farmer identified as Buju said the water is damaging his livelihood.

“I am minding pig, sheep, rabbit and the water levels for the past two or three days was right up in the pig pen. My pigs ent see me for two days straight.”

Small was also at the press conference. He said he will not bend, as his back was against the wall.

He said the problem started ten years ago, when the THA dug through his land to help alleviate a flooding problem in the area without his permission.

“Ten years ago, the government came without asking anyone any questions and cut my lands. I came home, I went to the government and ask them why they cut the lands.

"They said they did not know it was private land, but after the turtle season was over they would full it back.

"Ten years now I’ve been to them, more than ten times, they haven’t done anything. Fair is fair.”

He is now ready to use his property and began backfilling two weeks ago.

“I just fix back the land, because I’m selling the land, with the approval, and the lawyer asked me to close it back, and I have records to show it.

"My lawyer wrote to the EMA and to Land Management; they ent respond to him yet.

"They give me 14 days. They ent respond to him yet, but they came and said to me that I have 14 days to respond to them, as I is on state lands.

"That does not belong to state land, I bought that land. I have the documents to prove that I bought it.”

He also said he has EMA and Town and Country Planning approval, along with health approval for an 80-room development. He was adamant that he would not allow the THA once again todig through his property.

Electoral representative for the area Niall George visited the site and labelled the situation unfortunate.

“The situation to open the river mouth where it originally flowed is problematic as the island is in the middle of the turtle nesting season and the beach the river currently runs into is a significant turtle nesting site. It is believed that the only solution to the problem is to open the river mouth back into Small’s property until the end of the turtle-nesting season.”

George said the THA was committed to backfilling.

"That is coming from the top. I communicated with the Chief (Secretary), we spoke to all the relevant authorities – Environment: we spoke to EMA; land management got involved –and Mr Small responded with a pre-action protocol letter.”

He added: “I am saying that each and every one has a right to enjoy their property.

"I, as the area representative, have not been forceful, because I understand that Mr Small has a right to his property. I understand the situation of people who have been waiting a very long time to have action taken.

" I am an area representative and plenty of the complaints we get, they say it’s ten years now, is 12 years now. Governance is continuous, my shoulders are broad. So I have to take the blame although I was not even in politics when many of those things happened.”


"THA/landowner dispute spills over: Black Rock community flooding"

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