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$69M for first phase of plan

By COREY CONNELLY Sunday, November 18 2012

Minister of Water Resources and the Environment Ganga Singh believes the country’s perennial flooding woes may be a thing of the past by 2015.

“I have given an undertaking by the end of 2015 because there is no overnight solution. We are talking about cumulative problems over four and five decades,” he said yesterday at the start of a tour of drainage systems in Port-of-Spain.

“Then you have to deal with the city, where you have the utilities. You have telephone lines, you have water lines, you have electricity lines in the same area you have the drainage. So it is very complexed and complicated.”

Yesterday’s tour followed recent heavy rainfall which triggered severe flooding in Port-of-Spain and other areas throughout the country.

The flooding again prompted questions as to what could be done to minimise the problem in the long term. Speaking at the retention pond on Abbatoir Road, just outside of the City Gate Transit Hub, where desilting activity was being carried out, Singh said the chronic problem of flooding required a major investment in technical expertise — something currently lacking at the ministry.

Singh, who served as public utilities minister during the UNC’s 1995 to 2001 term in office, said: “We have a human capacity problem and we have to address it frontally. We need real technical expertise and we are going to garner that to deal with that problem and we are going to do that in the context of the IADB (Inter-American Development Bank), which the Ministry of Planning and Sustainable Development is looking after.We have to have that level of technical expertise available to us in order to deal with this problem and we do not have that in-house.”

At present, he said desilting exercises, after periods of heavy flooding, cost the State approximately $10 million every six months.

“After every major rainfall we have to desilt. It is costing a lot of money, but we have to do that to ensure that Port-of-Spain does not flood to the extent to which it is right now,” he said.

“In terms of the desilting, I saw all over the Port-of-Spain area, Woodbrook and the urban areas, into Port-of-Spain, when they do the desilting, I saw a figure of $10 million last year, every six months.” The minister said the exorbitant sum was tantamount to wastage.

“I mean, if you are going to have ten million for only desilting, that is money down the drain so to speak. You have to think about it (flooding) more in the long term,” he said. Singh, a former chief executive officer at the Water and Sewerage Authority (WASA), said the ministry had embarked on a comprehensive desilting programme, which is being carried out through packages. He said one of the packages encompassed the Port-of-Spain south region, in which the retention pond is located, and Richmond Street.

Singh said: “We have a package nine that is dealing with Richmond Street, Port-of-Spain south and that package is $69 million — one package and we have nine packages. They are doing a design. This one has been completed and a contract (Genivar) has been awarded a few months aback.”

Singh lamented that the drainage system in Port-of-Spain had not kept pace with the city’s overall development over the years.

Saying the indiscriminate dumping of plastic bottles and other items had also compounded the problem of flooding, Singh stressed there was need to educate the public of the dangers of the trend. He said, “We have significant rubbish, garbage coming into the rivers. The rivers carry the garbage, therefore, we have to impact upon people and educate people.”

Singh said the Government will table the Beverage Container Bill in the Senate on Tuesday to comprehensively address this concern. It is expected to be debated the following week. He said climate change was another significant contributor to flooding.

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