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Ministry, city sign deal to reduce flooding

By ANDRE BAGOO Friday, August 22 2014

IN WHAT has been hailed by both parties as a new level of collaboration between central and local government, the Ministry of Environment and Water Resources and the PNM- controlled Port-of-Spain City Corporation have signed a legal agreement designed to allow the corporation to give permission to the ministry to carry out activities to alleviate flooding in the city.

Ganga Singh, the Minister of Environment and Water Resources, yesterday disclosed that a memorandum of understanding was signed by the corporation and his ministry on Wednesday as part of ongoing activities in relation to a $756 million (US$120 million) Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) loan to tackle flooding in the capital.

The minister explained while drainage is the responsibility of the city corporation, the new agreement would clear the way for a collaborative approach, allowing central government to team with the corporation.

“The drainage in Port-of-Spain is the responsibility of the Port- of-Spain City Corporation,” Singh told reporters at a Cabinet media briefing held at the Office of the Prime Minister in St Clair. “Because we take a very collaborative approach we have been working with the city corporation with a view to addressing the problem. Our job is to find a solution and that solution can only be found through corporation.”

Singh continued, “We are collaborating with the mayor and his team and this mayor in particular is corporative and we will get a lot done and I want to congratulate Mayor (Raymond) Tim Kee for his approach.”

Contacted by Newsday yesterday, Tim Kee stated that the memorandum of understanding was designed to give permission for the collaboration.

“The memorandum of understanding is the corporation giving permission for those activities to take place,” he said. “It is a legal document that says we, the owners, so to speak, of the city do give support for activities pursuant to alleviating the flooding issue.”

On his approach to governance at the corporation, the mayor said, “Instead of everyone passing blame, I believe in collaboration, especially for outcomes that will benefit the general citizens and those in Port-of-Spain. I am collaborating with every entity so long as when I look at an issue objectively it is justified. My policy is collaboration. I am a team player.”

The collaboration relates to several areas including the first phase of the IDB loan, as well as the activities of the Solid Waste Management Company Ltd (SWMCOL) within the corporation, Singh indicated.

The minister said Cabinet had approved a design, bid and build process in relation to the first component of the IDB project which relates to the South Quay area.

“The South Quay area is the lowest part of Port-of-Spain and water accumulates at that level,” Singh said. “We cannot have our city being flooded.”

Singh also said there was a problem related to the clogging of underground drains. He said janitorial workers at the corporation had at times pushed rubbish into the drains from the streets. “SWMCOL is collaborating with the Port-of-Spain City Corporation with a view to changing that practice,” Singh said. “When we look at what we have cleared out of the drains you had significant garbage coming out when we cleared those drains.” The minister also said a new system of garbage collection is also proposed.

“We hope to have a new system of garbage collection in the area of Port-of-Spain with the corporation corporating with SWMCOL.”

But even as both sides signalled a new level of teamwork, the mayor denied Singh’s claim that corporation workers had a practice of stuffing rubbish into drains.

“That is not true and the corporation will respond to that in a statement,” Tim Kee said.

Singh said the IDB project also involved collaboration with the Downtown Owners and Merchants Association (DOMA), the Drainage Division and Nidco.

“This is an important development; we expect the pre-qualification process for contractors and consultants to be done in September and then, in accordance with IDB procurement rules, we will proceed to acquire the contractors and/or consultants to deal with this area of flooding in component one of the IDB loan,” he said.

At the Cabinet media briefing, the minister also announced measures to rehabilitate the cove area of South Quay.

“These proposed activities will have the added benefit of alleviating the flooding in the South Quay area by allowing greater run-off to the sea,” Singh said. “This area is at present very unsightly, has a heavy accumulation of silt and debris and is an eyesore, particularly at low tide. The last occasion improvement works were conducted to improve the aesthetics of this area was in the mid 1980s, approximately 20 years ago. Since then, there has been significant deterioration in the condition of the area.”

Singh said it is proposed that accumulated sludge is desilted, stone protection is enforced using blue limestone boulders and landscaping of the area takes place using suitable plant species.

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